ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Regarding Las Cruces’ Austin Trout, the boxing establishment is fresh out of excuses.
Nobody knows who he is? Saturday night, in successfully defending his WBA junior middleweight title, the unbeaten (26-0, 14 knockouts) Trout introduced himself to boxing fans worldwide with a victory by clear-cut, unanimous decision over Puerto Rican icon Miguel Cotto. More than 13,000 people watched in person at New York’s Madison Square Garden, many thousands more on Showtime.
Hasn’t fought anybody? Cotto (37-4. 30 KOs) isn’t exactly nobody. That was a four-time world champion Trout defeated, a warrior who’s been in the ring with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao — a man who, according to Showtime, had fought 17 previous bouts against current or former world champions and won 14.
Some will argue that Cotto, 32, is well past his prime. Perhaps so. Yet, just seven months ago, Cotto gave Mayweather one of his toughest fights before losing by unanimous decision. Interestingly enough, the official scorecards that night were almost identical to those from Trout-Cotto.
Boring, defensive style? Trout-Cotto may not have rivaled Micky Ward-Arturo Gatti for excitement, but it was an entertaining fight, with ebb and flow and give and take. No one who paid to see it, not even the most devoted Cotto fan, should feel cheated.
Financially not worth the risk of losing to him? If I’m a fight fan, I’m already wondering who wins should Trout step into the ring with a Canelo Alvarez or even a Mayweather Jr.
Isn’t that what promoters are supposed do — make the fights that fans want to see?
Alvarez, the unbeaten, wildly popular Mexican fighter and the WBC junior middleweight champion, swore vengeance early last year after Trout defeated his older brother, Rigoberto, to win the WBA title. Since then, however, little brother has decided to let bygones be bygones.
Saturday, Canelo Alvarez watched at Madison Square Garden as Trout punched holes in the possibility of a big-money Cotto-Alvarez fight. He was nowhere to be found when, after the bout, Trout called him out during a postfight interview.
What Alvarez saw, before his exit, was a ready-for-prime-time performance from Trout.
The official scorecards (117-111, 117-111, a what-fight-were-you-watching 119-109) failed to capture the aforementioned ebb and flow of the fight — for which the New Mexico southpaw’s work was that much more impressive.
Almost unanimously, Trout won the first two rounds with hand speed, sharp punching and superior quickness.
Perhaps overly encouraged by the strong start, he became a more stationary target for Cotto’s counter left hooks in rounds three through six. The Showtime broadcast crew, as well as several ringside reporters on Twitter, gave all four of those rounds to Cotto. Was the largely untested Trout not ready for prime time, after all?
But Trout isn’t merely a boxer; he’s a fan and a student of the game and an astute strategist. He also has a cool and knowledgeable trainer, fellow Las Crucen Louie Burke, in his corner.
“(Cotto’s) style is perfect for me,” Trout said before the fight. During the fight, he made it so.
Starting in round seven, Trout gave Cotto more movement and did a better job of slipping punches — yet actually increased his punch count. Trout’s fast and accurate fists dominated the last half of the fight, and, at the end, the only concern was that the judges might have been influenced by a vociferously pro-Cotto crowd. Obviously, they were not.
What’s next for Trout?
Likely, it will take time for the impact of Saturday’s bout to be felt — and for the boxing establishment to find new excuses for avoiding the Las Cruces southpaw.
Still, with newfound credibility, an expanded fan base and a solid management and promotional team, there can be no ignoring Austin Trout.
— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal