Lee Groves

10: Greatest middleweight champions

1. Bernard Hopkins – IBF titlist (April 29, 1995-December 3, 2005), WBC titleholder (April 14, 2001-December 3, 2005), WBA beltholder (September 29, 2001-December 3, 2005), WBO titlist and undisputed champion (September 18, 2004-December 3, 2005)

For nearly two decades Monzon was the standard of consistency to which all other middleweights aspired. That included Hopkins, who set his sights on Monzon’s record 14 defenses the moment he won the vacant IBF strap against Segundo Mercado, avenging a twice-off-the-floor draw in Ecuador five months earlier.

Not only did Hopkins break Monzon’s record, he shattered it. In all, he made 20 defenses of a variety of middleweight belts and assembled an extraordinary collection of historic achievements. Consider:

* Hopkins is only one of four to assemble a title reign lasting 10 years or more (Joe Louis, Johnny Kilbane and Joe Calzaghe were the others).

* Hopkins is one of only nine to achieve 20 or more defenses in a single weight class (Louis, Calzaghe, Dariusz Michalczewski, Ricardo Lopez, Abe Attell, Sven Ottke, Virgil Hill and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam are the others).

* “The Executioner” is the only fighter in the four-belt era to post two successful defenses (of all four belts), which, given the Alphabet Boys’ proclivities, will never happen again.

* His 24-second blowout of Steve Frank in January 1996 remains the briefest middleweight title fight on record.

* Finally, he was the oldest man to hold and defend a 160-pound title, for Hopkins was 40 years 45 days old when he decisioned Howard Eastman in his final successful defense.

Hopkins’ best wins came against Joe Lipsey (KO 4), John David Jackson (KO 7), an undefeated Glen Johnson (KO 11), Antwun Echols (W 12, KO 10), Felix Trinidad (TKO 12) and Oscar de la Hoya (KO 9). He also had three victories over Robert Allen, stopped former 154-pound champ Carl Daniels, unified two belts against Keith Holmes, beat up former WBA king William Joppy over 12 and stopped two-division champ Simon Brown. 

Monzon held the title of history’s greatest middleweight for a generation. It may be many generations before another 160-pounder will approach, much less surpass, Hopkins. And who was the fighter that ended Hopkins’ historic run? Jermain Taylor.

 

 

Photos / Chris Cozzone and Ed Mulholland-Fightwireimages.com

Lee Groves can be e-mailed at l.groves@frontier.com. Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, West Virginia. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won five writing awards, and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc and the author of “Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics.” To order, please visit Amazon.com or e-mail the author to arrange for autographed copies.

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