When Bernard Hopkins, the legendary former undisputed middleweight world champion and former light heavyweight champion, who is now a partner in Golden Boy Promotions, takes his seat at ringside, he naturally roots for his company's fighters to win.
But Hopkins will have a special reason to root extra hard when he takes his seat at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas to watch the much-anticipated rematch between unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez in the year's biggest fight on Saturday night (HBO PPV, 8 p.m. ET).
As one of Alvarez's Golden Boy promoters and because Alvarez is the man who can preserve Hopkins' all-time record of 20 consecutive middleweight world title defenses, Hopkins has a vested interest in Alvarez winning.
Hopkins has watched with interest as, fight by fight, GGG has marched toward that hallowed record. Golovkin was supposed to meet Alvarez in their rematch on May 5 with a chance to tie the record, but the fight was canceled -- and later renegotiated for Saturday -- when Alvarez failed two drug tests for the performance-enhancing drug clenbuterol and was suspended for six months.
So instead of facing Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs), 28, GGG faced late replacement Vanes Martirosyan and destroyed him in the second round to notch defense No. 20 and match a record once thought to be untouchable. Now, Golovkin has a chance to break it on Saturday with Hopkins sitting a few feet from the ring.
"I am probably the only fighter in history that has more than one thing at stake in why I need my guy Canelo to win," Hopkins said. "Records are made to be broken, but it's one thing to be on the business side of it and another thing personally, that a big thing from my career is in jeopardy. I honestly didn't think it would be broken, and if I did, maybe 20 years from now.
"I'd say GGG got a 50-50 chance to break the record. But this ain't no gimme. If he's going to break this record, he will have to earn it against Canelo."
Hopkins fashioned his record during a dominant title reign from 1995 to 2005, in which he became the undisputed champion and the first fighter to hold all four major belts simultaneously. He knocked out Segundo Mercado in the seventh round of their rematch of a previous draw to win a vacant 160-pound belt, made defense No. 1 by first-round knockout of Steve Frank in 1996 and went on to defeat opponents such as John David Jackson, Glen Johnson, Antwun Echols (twice), Keith Holmes, Felix Trinidad in a career-defining win, William Joppy, Oscar De La Hoya and Howard Eastman for No. 20 before being vanquished twice by Jermain Taylor.
When Hopkins moved past middleweight legends such as Marvelous Marvin Hagler, his idol, who made 12 defenses from 1980 to 1987, and Carlos Monzon, whose 14 defenses from 1971 to 1977 stood as the previous record, Hopkins openly talked about stalking their marks before his fights. The record was a major part of his identity.
"My thoughts when I did it was that the baton was being passed to me, and it meant a lot -- the history, the accomplishment. It was like, hey, I get a chance to be in the conversation with the great Hagler and Monzon. It takes a lot of discipline and hard work to maintain that longevity."
Golovkin, though he doesn't talk much about it, has had the record in the back of his mind for the past few years.
"If he breaks the record, I will be happy that it went to a guy who deserved it rather than a guy who didn't earn it based on cherry-picking opponents. GGG is not a cherry-picker. He cleared out the top guys, and a lot of guys didn't want to fight him. If he beats Canelo and breaks the record, he deserves it." Bernard Hopkins
When asked in 2016 about the prospect of breaking the record, GGG told ESPN, "I hope I can beat the record. I like it. It's very important to me and my team. Maybe. I hope."
Now, Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs), 36, who has held a world title since 2010, making him boxing's longest-reigning active titleholder, and Hopkins are tied, and breaking the record would be huge for Golovkin, trainer Abel Sanchez and promoter Tom Loeffler.
"Absolutely. It's very important for me to beat this record," Golovkin said. "Basically, it's like two types of victory -- to beat Canelo and to beat the record. For me, it's the most important goal at this point."
Said Loeffler, "When you put it in perspective, it would be a tremendous accomplishment if GGG is able to break Bernard's record. Most people thought that was untouchable, 20 middleweight title defenses. To be on this big of a stage, this platform, the biggest fight of boxing, and if he's able to beat Canelo and break the record at the same time, as he said, this would be a huge accomplishment for him, all on the same night."
Hopkins and Sanchez go way back. Hopkins trained at his gym a few times during the 1990s, when Sanchez worked with Hall of Famer Terry Norris. They have deep respect for each other.
"Both G and I, Gennady and I, have a tremendous amount of respect for Bernard and for what he's accomplished and what he continues to accomplish in the sport," Sanchez said. "It would be an honor to be mentioned, for my fighter to be mentioned in the same breath with Bernard Hopkins. I think it's important to set goals that we want to reach, and to reach this one I thought would never be possible. I thought it would never be possible for any fighter, and for me to be involved in that, or that possibility, is mind-boggling."
While Hopkins doesn't want to see the record broken, he said that if it must go, that Golovkin is a worthy successor.
"Nobody in any sport wants to see their record broken. I think that when that happens, it's bittersweet," he said. "Do I want my record broken? Hell, no! Do I have a good chance that I can be celebrating two victories, having Canelo Alvarez win the fight and my record not be broken? Yes, I do.
"Absolutely. It's very important for me to beat this record. Basically, it's like two types of victory -- to beat Canelo and to beat the record. For me, it's the most important goal at this point." Gennady Golovkin
"But for Golovkin to stay focused and disciplined no matter the competition, that needs to be recognized, because 99 percent of us fall off. But GGG don't take anybody lightly. I got the utmost respect for any athlete, especially GGG, who can do that. His discipline and his will to win and his will to go through fire to be victorious makes him a dangerous man. And he understands history, making, breaking, setting his own history, including the record. I respect anybody who can do that, especially GGG."
Then Hopkins added with a laugh, "I have a lot of respect for him, but Canelo's gonna kick his ass."
Alvarez said he isn't paying attention to Golovkin's quest to break the tie with Hopkins and that there is no additional pressure on him to preserve his promoter's tie with GGG.
"Golovkin has his goals. He has his wishes, just like me," Alvarez said. "Mine is to win on [Saturday]. Whatever he wants, that's his record, his desires. That's why he's training. That's why he's training to win."
Said Chepo Reynoso, Alvarez's manager and assistant trainer: "We are working to win this fight. We're not worried about breaking records or preventing people from breaking records. What we do want to do is make sure that we take away [Golovkin's] undefeated record."
There are some who have looked at Golovkin's march to 20 defenses as less than authentic because his first five defenses were of the WBA's "regular" belt. However, the reason for that was because then-"super" titleholder Felix Sturm, once a promotional stablemate of Golovkin's in Germany, outright refused to face him even when the mandatory defense was ordered.
Hopkins' record was also questioned at the time by some who believed that a 1998 no-contest with Robert Allen in the first of their three title fights should not have counted toward the record.
"Everybody has an opinion," Sanchez said. "The one thing that I can say about Golovkin's career, he's never had a rematch with anybody [until Alvarez]. On that record that you're talking about, Bernard, he had rematches with Antwun Echols and [two with] Robert Allen. You can look at it in a way that those kind of counter each other, but we never fought a rematch, and not only did Golovkin [tie] the record, he did it in a fashion that Bernard didn't. He did it with most knockouts. So I'm content with the fact that he's going to break it."
Hopkins also doesn't lessen GGG's accomplishment because of his "regular" title defenses, especially because Golovkin has unified three titles (though he was stripped of one this past summer), scored 18 knockouts in his 20 defenses and has had a variety of top fighters avoid him.
"If he breaks the record, I will be happy that it went to a guy who deserved it rather than a guy who didn't earn it based on cherry-picking opponents," Hopkins said. "GGG is not a cherry-picker. He cleared out the top guys, and a lot of guys didn't want to fight him. If he beats Canelo and breaks the record, he deserves it."