NEW YORK — Without a title around his waist, Miguel Cotto is still the undisputed champion of Madison Square Garden.
Cotto, a Puerto Rico native, has seen his fights morph into giant fiestas the previous seven times he fought at the Garden. Against Antonio Margarito last year, a sellout of crowd of 21,239 honked horns, waved the Puerto Rico flag and absolutely went wild for all things Cotto — starting with his entrance to the opening strains of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.”
Cotto (37-3, 30 KOs) has held up his end of the deal in front of the zealous faithful. Seven fights at MSG. Seven victories.
Cotto’s fights have sold more than 100,00 tickets over the course of his career at MSG, and he’s ready to make it 8 for 8 when he attempts to dethrone undefeated WBA Super Welterweight champion and Las Cruces native Austin Trout tonight.
Cotto, the four-time world champion, is ready to win that 154-pound title inside his true boxing home.
“They are there for me; I’m there for them,” Cotto said. “And I’m going to make them proud and they’re going to help me whatever happens during the fight.”
He fights for the first time since dropping a piece of the 154-pound title to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in May. Mayweather took a unanimous decision over Cotto.
Even in defeat, Cotto called his the loss against Mayweather one of the best fights of his career. Cotto was never down against Mayweather, landed some hard punches and kept attacking all the way to the final bell. It’s another reason why he’s confident he can rebound against Trout.
“I watched the Mayweather fight a couple of times since we fought,” Cotto said. “I thought it was a good fight, a close fight. The judges gave it to him on the scorecards, but after watching it, I feel like I gave him a good fight, and I am proud of my performance.”
Cotto should be in for his toughest fight yet at the Garden against Trout. Trout has held his share of the 154-pound title for nearly two years since winning a unanimous decision against Rigoberto Alvarez in Mexico.
Trout beat Alvarez in his hometown of Guadalajara and understands the daunting task of trying to stave off not only his opponent — but a 12th man in a huge home ring advantage.
“I just have to make sure I don’t give the crowd anything to cheer about,” he said. “I’ll be pretty comfortable being in the hostile territory. Really, the crowd can only do one thing, and that’s to make noise. They can’t help him get up; they can’t help him punch harder; they can’t help him punch faster.”
Trout, a 2004 U.S. Olympic alternate, has been as wowed at Cotto’s career as much as the fans who flock from New York’s Puerto Rican communities to cheer him on. After a news conference in October, Trout approached Cotto and requested an autograph — which was captured on Showtime’s “All-Access” show.
“There’s Austin Trout the fan of boxing,” Trout said, “and Austin Trout the fighter.”
Forget the autograph tonight. Trout (25-0, 14 KOs) is aiming for a true signature win. Trout, a southpaw, grinded out a championship career far removed from the spotlight of boxing meccas such as Las Vegas and New York. He’s mostly fought in Texas and New Mexico and is still a relative unknown on the national scene.
Spoiling Cotto’s perfect New York mark in a breakthrough performance is one way to get noticed.
“I plan on making history,” Trout said. “Not because I made Miguel Cotto a five-time world champion, but because I will be the only person to beat Miguel Cotto in New York.”