To the less-than-fully-informed boxing fan, “Austin Trout” sounds like something a fisherman has reeled in from a lake in close proximity to Texas’ capital city.
Oh, sure, Austin “No Doubt” Trout has been the holder of the WBA’s “regular” super welterweight championship for nearly two years, and he has a distinctive and easily remembered name, in the manner of, say, former Major League Baseball slugger Darryl Strawberry. But, his bejeweled belt notwithstanding, the 27-year-old southpaw from Las Cruces, N.M., still hasn’t made the breakthrough from intriguing curiosity item to full-fledged star, a situation that could be remedied on Dec. 1, when Trout angles to land one of boxing’s legitimate whoppers, Puerto Rican icon Miguel Cotto.
The Showtime-televised main event in Madison Square Garden marks the eighth appearance in Madison Square Garden (and the 10th in New York, including one bout each in the Hammerstein Ballroom and Yankee Stadium) for the hugely popular Cotto (37-3, 30 KOs), who will be bidding for his fifth world title. As was noted in the premiere episode of Showtime’s “All Access” presentations that have been airing in advance of the event, Cotto, 32, has actually sold more tickets in boxing’s Mecca than did the great Muhammad Ali in a like number of turns in the Garden.
But venturing into a veritable lion’s den is nothing new for road warrior Trout, who actually believes that fighting before unfriendly audiences gives him something of a mental edge. He has beaten a Panamanian in Panama, a Canadian in Canada, a Mexican in Mexico. He looks forward to stilling the cheers of a pro-Cotto crowd in much the same manner that he did on those other successful excursions onto the other guy’s turf.
“This is not my first time being in a hostile environment,” Trout said of what awaits him at the opening bell, and until such time that he is able to seize control of the bout and thus turn down the crowd volume. “I know how to use it to my advantage. Just another walk in the park.
“My goal is to make the Garden go silent, except for maybe 20 New Mexicans who are coming to cheer for me. The funny thing is, I have a lot of family in New York. Actually, most of my family comes from New York. I have two sets of grandparents who live there (in Brooklyn and in Harlem). So it will be kind of a homecoming for me, although not nearly as big as the one for Cotto. Obviously, there are a bunch of Puerto Ricans living in New York. Those are Cotto’s people.”
Anyone who tuned in to the Oct. 20 rematch between WBA/WBC super lightweight champion Danny “Swift” Garcia and Mexican legend Erik Morales, the first boxing show in Brooklyn’s spanking-new Barclays Center, already knows that Trout at the very least talks a good fight. He was part of the Showtime commentary team for Garcia’s fourth-round knockout victory, along with Mauro Ranallo, Al Bernstein and Joe Cortez. He earned generally high marks for his glibness and the quality of his analysis, suggesting a bright future in the broadcasting business.
Trout is quick to point out that boxing for the most part is a young man’s game, with aging and familiar names eventually obliged to yield to fresh and lesser-known ones, as was the case in Garcia’s pummeling of Morales into likely retirement.
“I told Danny Garcia after his fight that I’m trying to keep that same trend going that he is a part of,” Trout said. “Out with the old and in with the new. I don’t believe Cotto is a shot fighter like Erik Morales. Cotto is still hungry. But, man, I’m starving.
“Miguel Cotto is a warrior who’s never backed away from any challenge, and I’ve always had the utmost respect for him as one of the best representatives of our sport. I am very grateful for the opportunity to fight him. But that said … he messed up. I honestly don’t see how I can lose.
“I just feel that I will be the faster, stronger, taller and better technical fighter on that night. I know he is a very good puncher and a smart fighter with a lot of experience, but he’s also 5’7” with a short reach. I didn’t know he was short as he is until we stood next to each other at the press conference to announce the fight. (Trout is 5’9½”.) I just have to believe the size difference is going to be a factor.”
Trout and his longtime trainer, Louie Burke, have the confidence that might be expected of a collaborative unit that has yet to taste defeat together. They also should have reason to be leery. Although Cotto has more than a few miles on his pugilistic odometer, and admits to imagining the end of an almost certain Hall of Fame career, in his last fight he gave boxing’s finest pound-for-pound practitioner, Floyd Mayweather Jr., one of his tougher tests in dropping a 12-round, unanimous decision at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 5, bloodying “Money’s” lip in the process. A number of boxing experts continue to rate Cotto as one of the top 10 fighters regardless of weight class.
He is, in other words, just the sort of trophy catch Trout needs if he, too, is to attain whopper status.
“I’ve been under the radar,” Trout acknowledged. “This is what Louie and I have been working for, this magnitude of fight. When they asked me if I wanted to fight Cotto, I didn’t believe it. And since we’re fantasizing, I wish I there was some way could fight Sugar Ray Leonard, too. It’s always been a dream of mine to beat up the legends. That’s how you become a legend.”
Trout admits to being just a bit irked when the news leaked that Cotto, provided he got won on Dec. 1, was looking to make his first defense of his newly won title against another young stud, WBC super welter champ Saul “Canelo” Alvarez during Cinco de Mayo weekend in 2013.
If Canelo is hot to fight on that date, Trout reasons, why not against him? After all, he already is 1-0 against the Alvarez family, having captured the vacant WBA 154-pound crown on a unanimous decision over Rigoberto Alvarez in the Alvarezes’ hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico, on Feb. 5, 2011.
“If Cotto and is team are going to overlook me, that’s their problem. They’re going to be unpleasantly surprised,” Trout said. “When next May rolls around, I’m very confident it’s going to be my name that’s in the running to face Canelo, if he chooses to take the fight.
“I remember being in Mexico fighting Rigoberto Alvarez for the WBA title. That’s Canelo’s big brother. In fact, Canelo was in the other corner, biting his nails the whole time.”
Beating Rigoberto Alvarez is not the same as beating Canelo Alvarez, however, just as beating the fighters Trout did in his first three championship defenses – David Lopez, Frank LoPorto and Delvin Rodriguez – isn’t the same as notching a win over someone with as big a rep as Cotto.
“Cotto’s got the name, he’s got the recognition,” Trout said. “I have the title. I got the title so I could get the name and the recognition. I’ve been champion going on two years now, but it seemed like I wasn’t getting those names that I was looking for. But this fight, this is why I wanted to be champion. Used to be, you needed the name to get the title. Now, you got to get the title to get the name.”