The middleweight division, from 154 to 160 lbs, has long been one of the most popular in professional boxing. The origins of the weight class can be traced back to the 1840s during the bare-knuckle era of the sport. Gennady ‘Triple G’ Golovkin is regarded as the best middleweight in the world at the moment and that’s backed up by the numerous titles he holds.
Some of the greatest boxers in history have fought as middleweights including Jake LaMotta, Sugar Ray Robinson, Carmen Basilio, Dick Tiger, Emile Griffith, Carlos Monzon, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Felix Trinidad, Roy Jones Jr., Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins.
This list consists of the 10 longest single reigns in the weight division in one or more of the sport’s governing bodies such as the IBF, WBA, WBC, WBO, and IBO. If a boxer was champion more than one time then his longest reign is considered rather than combined reigns as middleweight champ.
10. Arthur Abraham
Armenian-born Arthur Abraham has boxed out of Germany since turning pro in 2003. He won the vacant IBF Middleweight Championship by stopping Kingsley Ikeke in the fifth round in 2005. Abraham then defended his title 11 times and reigned for three years, seven months and two days. The 11 title defenses are the fourth-most in the middleweight division. His toughest opponents over that stretch were Raul Marquez and Edison Miranda, whom he beat twice. Abraham wanted to unify the middleweight titles, but couldn’t land a fight with any of the other champs so moved up to the 168 lb. super middleweight division. He managed to beat Jermain Taylor, but lost to Andre Dirrell, Carl Froch and Andre Ward at the heavier weight before winning the WBO Super Middleweight Title from Robert Stieglitz. Abraham defended it once then lost to Stieglitz in a rematch. But by March, 2014 he was champ once again after beating Stieglitz in their rubber match. Abraham defended his title five times, including a fourth bout with Stieglitz, but lost the belt to Gilberto Ramirez in April, 2016. The 37-year-old Abraham (46-5, 30 Kos) is scheduled to take on Chris Eubank Jr. for the IBO Super Middleweight Championship on July 15th.
9. Bob Fitzsimmons
Britain’s Bob Fitzsimmons was the first three-division champion in boxing history as he won the middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight titles. He was also the lightest-ever heavyweight champion at 167 lbs. Fitzsimmons may have held the middleweight title for three years, eight months and 12 days, but it’s a little misleading since he defended the crown just once during his reign. Fitzsimmons was a heavy hitter who racked up a pro record of 61-8-4 with 57 Kos and 19 no contests between 1885 and 1914. He won the middleweight belt in 1891 when he stopped Jack Dempsey after 13 rounds, not to be confused with future heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey. Fitzsimmons fought numerous times after winning the championship, but they were non-title bouts. He defended the middleweight crown against Dan Creedon in 1894 and soon vacated the division. He then won the heavyweight title three years later and added the light heavyweight belt in 1903.
8. Felix Sturm
Like Arthur Abraham, Germany’s Felix Sturm (40-6-3, 18 Kos) was another solid European boxer who managed to hold onto the middleweight title by defending against mainly Grade B opposition. The 38-year-old won titles at middleweight and super middleweight with his longest reign being five years, four months and four days at middleweight. Sturm won the WBO Middleweight Championship by split decision over Hector Javier Velasco in September, 2003. He defended it once and then lost it to Oscar De La Hoya a year later. In 2006, Sturm beat Maselino Masoe by unanimous decision to capture the WBA Middleweight Title, but lost it in his first defense to Javier Castillejo. Sturm beat Castillejo in their 2007 rematch to reclaim the WBA Belt. He then defended it 12 times before losing to Daniel Geale in September, 2012. Sturm wasn’t finished though as he took the IBF Middleweight Title from Darren Barker in 2013 and lost it to Sam Soliman in his first defense. Sturm went up to super middleweight and won the WBA Title in February of last year by beating Fedor Chudinov and then vacated the title.
7. Jack Dempsey
Jack Dempsey hailed from County Kildare in Ireland and became the first middleweight champ in boxing history. He fought from 1883 to 1895 with a pro record of 51-4-11 with 23 Kos. Dempsey’s middleweight championship reign lasted for six years, six months and 15 days and he defended his title just three times. Dempsey passed away from tuberculosis 10 months after his final career fight when he was just 32 years old in November of 1895. He was named the inaugural Middleweight Champion on July 30th, 1884 and reigned until losing his title to Bob Fitzsimmons when he was stopped in the 13th round in January of 1891. Dempsey took two years off and then returned to the ring to fight once in 1893, 1894 and 1895.
6. Marvin Hagler
Marvelous Marvin Hagler (62-3-2, 52 Kos) of Newark, New Jersey was a hard-hitting southpaw who held the WBC, WBA and IBF titles at one point during his pro career from 1973 to 1987. Hagler defended his titles a total of 12 times and is best known for his three-round classic Ko win over Tommy Hearns in 1985 and his controversial split decision loss to Sugar Ray Leonard in his final fight. His unanimous decision victory over Roberto Duran in 1983 wasn’t too shabby either. Hagler fought for the undisputed Middleweight Title in 1979, but earned only a draw with Vito Antuofermo. However, he won the WBA, WBC and Lineal Titles when he stopped England’s Alan Minter on cuts in the third round of their battle in September, 1980. He defended the titles six times and added the IBF Title in his seventh defense. Hagler went on to defend all the belts five more times, before losing to Leonard and retiring. Hagler’s knockout ratio of 78 per cent ranks the highest ever for all undisputed middleweight champs. He held the Middleweight Title for six years, seven months and 10 days.
5. Carlos Monzon
Argentina’s Carlos Monzon held the WBA and WBC Titles and made a total of 14 defenses. His reign lasted for six years, nine months and nine days and he posted a record of 87-3-9 with 59 Kos during his career from 1963 to 1977. He was well known for his speed and power and managed to avenge his three defeats. Monzon was the Argentine and South American Middleweight Champs when he stopped Nino Benvenuti in the 12th round in November, 1970 for the worldtitle. He also fought several non-title bouts with his 14 title defenses with wins over top-notch boxers such as Emile Griffith, Jose Napoles, Tony Mundine and Rodrigo Valdez. Monzon was still the reigning champ when he retired. However, his life spiraled out of control and in 1989 was found guilty of killing his wife. Monzon died in 1995 when crashing his car during a weekend pass from prison.
4. Gennady Golovkin
‘Triple G’ Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan is currently the WBC, WBA (Super), IBO and IBF Champion with his reign beginning in August, 2010. Golovkin has defended his titles 18 times and is scheduled to take on Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in Las Vegas on September 16th. He turned pro in 2006 and has a perfect record of 37-0 with 33 Kos. Golovkin has held the title for nearly six years and 11 months as of July 1st, 2017 and his reign is getting longer with each passing day. He won the WBA Interim Middleweight Championship in 2010 over Milton Nunez and became the organization’s regular champ the same year. He won the vacant IBO Title in 2011 with a win over 11 Lajuan Simon and then added the WBC Interim Belt by beating Marco Antonio Rubio in 2014. He then captured the IBF Championship in 2015 by stopping David Lemieux. When Alvarez relinquished the WBC Title Golovkin became the organization’s fulltime champ. The hard-hitting 35-year old has an 89.8 per cent knockout ratio which is tops for a middleweight champ and his 17 knockout defenses tied him with Wilfredo Gomez for the most stoppages in world title fights. Triple G also won gold as a middleweight at the World Championships in 2003 and a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics.
3. Tony Zale
American Tony Zale defended his title just five times combined, but is the third-longest reigning middleweight champ at the moment at six years, 11 months and 24 days. However, he’ll soon be passed by Gennady Golovkin. Zale was just over 5-feet-7-inches tall but compiled a pro record of 67-18-2 with 45 Kos from 1934 to 1946. He won the National Boxing Association, (now the WBA) Title by stopping Al Hostak in their 1940 tilt. Zale lost his very next fight, but it was a non-title bout. He fought several of these and then defended the title three times in 1941 and added the New York State Athletic Commission Title with his win over Georgie Abrams. After numerous non-title fights during World War II, Zale stopped Rocky Graziano in September, 1946 in his fourth defense. Several more non-title fights followed and Zale eventually lost his titles by TKO to Graziano in their 1947 rematch. Zale then stopped Graziano in 1948 to regain the NBA Crown, but lost it to Marcel Cerdan three months later in his final bout.
2. Tommy Ryan
The least recognizable boxer on this list for most fans may be American Tommy Ryan. He fought from 1887 to 1911 and was once the World Welterweight and World Middleweight Champion at the same time. He compiled an 84-2-11 record with 70 Kos and defended the middleweight crown just four times during his eight year, seven month and four-day reign. He won the vacant World Welterweight Title in 1891 in a five-hour, 76-round fight. Ryan then won the vacant Middleweight Title in February of 1898 and held it until giving it up in December of 1906. Records from back then are quite vague, so it’s hard to tell exactly how many times Ryan defended the Middleweight Title, but Stanley Ketchel was named the next middleweight champ in 1907 after Ryan had vacated it.
1. Bernard Hopkins
The all-time reign for middleweight champs and fourth-longest in any division is 10 years, two months and 18 days which belongs to Bernard ‘The Executioner’ Hopkins of Philadelphia. He would also go on to win a light heavyweight title and set a new record for oldest boxing champion in history at the age of 50. Hopkins held Middleweight Titles for the IBO, IBF, WBA, WBO and WBC and defended them a division record 20 times. He fought professionally from 1988 to 2016 with a record of 55-8-2 with 32 kos and two no contests. Hopkins won the IBF Middleweight Title in 1994 and then unified the division later in 2001. In 2004 he became the first boxer to simultaneously hold the world championship belt from all four of the sport’s major organizations. Hopkins finally lost his middleweight titles in 2005 when Jermain Taylor beat him. Taylor also beat Hopkins in their immediate rematch. However, he moved to the light heavyweight division and won the IBO title the next year. He lost that belt, but would win the Lineal and WBC Titles in 2011. Hopkins added the IBF Crown in 2013 and the WBA (Super) Belt in 2014.