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Gennadiy Golovkin looks to set official record with 21st middleweight title defense: Breaking down the first 20 defenses

GGG will look to make a record 21st middleweight title defense on Dec. 18, but boxing being boxing makes the record a weird one.

Gennady Golovkin v Steve Rolls Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Gennadiy Golovkin’s now official Dec. 18 IBF middleweight title defense against mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta won’t have most boxing fans whooping and hollering with great anticipation, as in all honesty Szeremeta will be a massive underdog and it’s not a fight anyone was asking to see. It’s a tune-up, is the general and understandable consensus among fans and pundits.

But for the 38-year-old Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KO), it’s much more than that. It’s a chance for him to make a 21st successful title defense at middleweight, which would be a new record. He is currently tied with Bernard Hopkins for the most-ever defenses at 160 pounds.

“This is not just any fight,” Golovkin said. “It is a fight with great meaning. I always have the greatest respect for all of my opponents. I have really missed boxing and I wanted to fight this year. The goal — fighting for a record 21st successful world title defense.”

The language is consistent with how Golovkin has always operated. This is not a fighter who can be accused of having taken opponents lightly at any point in his career, which included a reign with at least one major middleweight belt from 2010-18. Whether it was Canelo Alvarez or Nobuhiro Ishida, GGG has come in shape, ready to fight, and didn’t have any nights where he didn’t have the best stuff he could possibly have on the evening.

The 31-year-old Szeremeta (21-0, 5 KO) is a former European champion but has never been considered a true top middleweight contender. And he, of course, wants to make some history of his own by becoming his country’s first-ever world middleweight titleholder.

“I want this title for Poland and my family,” said Szeremeta. “GGG is a great champion, one of the best in history, but it is time for replacement. Thank you for the great chance, I must take my opportunity to be the first world middleweight champion from Poland.”

Golovkin’s history chase

Gennady Golovkin v Curtis Stevens Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The record Golovkin is going for is a bit murky, which is probably not a surprise if you follow boxing closely in the modern era. It mostly couldn’t avoid that, being a boxing record and all. The PR teams and promoters and people involved with finding an angle to sell this fight will just tell you, “Hey, it’s the record,” and officially it will be, but it’s not hard to say maybe there should be an asterisk, and that’s with all due respect to Gennadiy Golovkin, who is headed to the Hall of Fame when he’s done in the sport.

The problem is nothing to do with GGG himself, and everything to do with standard boxing BS. It’s title dilution, specifically (surprise!) the WBA’s attempts to juice as many fighters as they can out of “world title” sanctioning fees.

The WBA’s secondary “world” title was the first one Golovkin was defending on his run, as he was promoted from interim titlist to that designation in 2010. Felix Sturm at the time held the WBA’s more widely-recognized “super world” title at the same weight, and in fact would hold it until losing it to Daniel Geale in Sept. 2012.

Nine of the 21 defenses Golovkin made were of the WBA’s secondary title alone, and you can’t even argue that the largely disregarded (and let’s keep it that way) IBO title covers the claim — it would be a poor argument in the first place, but he didn’t win that belt until Dec. 2011 against Lajuan Simon, and didn’t make his first defense of it until May 2012 against Makoto Fuchigami. So that would knock three off his current counted total already, meaning he’d have to retain against Szeremeta for No. 18, and then make two more defenses just to tie Hopkins from there, and then a third after Szeremeta to pass B-Hop.

But boxing being dumb the way it can be, you can also make this argument: why not just count the damn thing, anyway? It’s not like Golovkin didn’t want to fight Sturm, for one thing. It’s pretty much unanimously accepted that Sturm avoided GGG.

At any rate, here’s the list of fighters Golovkin has successfully defended against in title 160 pounds, in order:

WBA “World” Middleweight Title

  • Nilson Julio Tapia (2010)
  • Kassim Ouma (2011)
  • Lajuan Simon (2011)
  • Makoto Fuchigami (2012)
  • Grzegorz Proksa (2012)
  • Gabriel Rosado (2013)
  • Nobuhiro Ishida (2013)
  • Matthew Macklin (2013)
  • Curtis Stevens (2013)
  • Osumanu Adama (2014)

WBA “Super World” Middleweight Title

  • Daniel Geale (2014)
  • Marco Antonio Rubio (2014)
  • Martin Murray (2015)
  • Willie Monroe Jr (2015)
  • David Lemieux (2015)

WBA “Super World” and IBF Middleweight Titles

  • Dominic Wade (2016)

WBA “Super World”, IBF, and WBC Middleweight Titles

  • Kell Brook (2016)
  • Daniel Jacobs (2017)
  • Canelo Alvarez (draw) (2017)

WBA “Super World” and WBC Middleweight Titles

  • Vanes Martirosyan (2018)

Will Szeremeta be No. 21? Probably. Boxing offers no true guarantees so long as the other fighter gives an honest effort, but yeah, probably. The odds are way against the Polish challenger.

There is some belief that Golovkin has faded, and given that he’s 38 and working with a still relatively new trainer in Johnathon Banks — Szeremeta will be their third fight together — he’s not the same as he was a couple years ago. But the “fade” seems mostly predicated on the idea that he had some struggles against Sergiy Derevyanchenko. But Derevyanchenko is a really good fighter. He went a supremely controversial 0-1-1 against Canelo Alvarez in 2017 and 2018, but Canelo’s a great fighter. He didn’t have it easy with Daniel Jacobs in 2017, either, prior to the Canelo fight, but Daniel Jacobs is a really good fighter.

Has time taken a toll? Surely it has, it does on all of us, and certainly on any pro athlete eventually. But Golovkin is still a top middleweight, arguably the top middleweight with Canelo only technically hanging around at the weight due to his WBA title, while it seems clear the Mexican superstar will be staying at 168 from now on.

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