ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Champ considered an underdog against Miguel Cotto
A date with destiny is one thing; going steady with that lady is another.
For the former, Austin Trout’s time has come.
For the latter, he fervently believes, he has everything it takes.
Austin Trout vs. Miguel Cotto for Trout’s WBA junior middleweight title, Madison Square Garden: 7 p.m., Showtime
He hasn’t worked so hard and come so far, the Las Cruces boxer says, to lose now.
Saturday night at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden, Trout will defend his World Boxing Association junior middleweight title against Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto.
Based on name recognition and the oddsmakers, one might think Cotto was the champion and Trout the challenger.
Long recognized as one of boxing’s premier fighters, Cotto (37-3, 30 knockouts) is approximately a 3-to-1 betting favorite. He has fought at the Garden seven times, is unbeaten at that venue and is immensely popular with the New York crowd. He has fought the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley and Zab Judah.
Trout (25-0, 14 KOs), despite his WBA title belt, remains a relative unknown. In the buildup to Saturday’s bout, his experience level and the quality of his opposition has been questioned.
The Las Cruces southpaw and his trainer, Las Cruces’ Louie Burke, are united in their respect for Cotto and their steadfast belief that Trout’s hand will be raised at the end of the fight.
Destiny and skill, Trout says, are a tough combination to beat.
“It’s pretty corny to say I feel like it’s my destiny (to win),” Trout says, “but I honestly do.
“If you think about it, a little black kid from Las Cruces, New Mexico was never meant to be a world champion. … By the power of God, he’s brought me here. And I don’t think he’s brought me here to be a failure. That’s one source of my confidence.”
The other source, he says, is the boxing skills he has honed in the Las Cruces Police Athletic Gym for the past 17 years.
Cotto’s style, he says, “is perfect for mine. … I know for a fact he won’t be able to outbox me. What he‘s going to have to do is revert back to the Cotto that he knows, which is more of a plodding-forward brawler. And I’ve been fighting those my whole life.”
Neither boxer nor trainer is expecting an easy fight.
“We have to be on our ‘A’ game, definitely,” Burke says.
But Burke believes Trout’s quickness of hand and foot, height and reach advantage and southpaw stance will prove too much.
“I just think Austin’s the better athlete all-around,” Burke says.
This date with destiny was a long time coming.
Trout wasn’t an instant superstar as an amateur, Burke says, but his love for the sport was unflagging. He won a national amateur title in 2004 and was an Olympic alternate that year.
Trout turned pro in 2005 and has seen nothing but success in the ring.
Outside of the squared circle, injuries, a congenital abnormality of the brain stem – eventually deemed harmless by doctors – and his slick-boxing, southpaw style, anathema to the major promoters, have conspired against him.
“It hasn’t been a smooth road by any means,” Burke says. “There’s been a lot of trials and tribulations.”
To win his world title, Trout had to beat then-champion Rigoberto Alvarez in the latter’s hometown. As the champion, he fought and defeated Mexican David Lopez in San Luís Potosí, Mexico.
Those who denigrate the level of Trout’s previous competition, Burke says, don’t get it.
“David Lopez was a beast,” he says. “Ring Magazine was rating him the most underrated fighter in the middleweight division. Then Austin beat him, and nobody heard from him (again). But since Austin’s fight, (Lopez) has three wins.”
Finally, last March, Trout signed a contract with adviser Al Haymon, among the most influential men in boxing. Doors previously closed began to open. Now, a victory over Cotto could break those doors down.
Burke and Trout are not alone on this New York adventure. Trout’s mother, M.J., his fianceé, Taylor Hardardt, and the fighter’s young children have made the trip.
Trout doesn’t plan to disappoint them, now or in the future.
“I’m grateful for where I am,” he says, “but there’s a lot more I want to do.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal