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CottoTrout3-12-2012Saturday night, in what was one of the biggest upsets of 2012, Puerto Rican superstar Miguel Cotto {37-4 with 30 Kos} tasted defeat at Madison Square Garden for the first time in his boxing career after being out slicked and outpointed by unbeaten American Austin Trout {26-0 with 14 Kos}.

To say Miguel Cotto lost this fight because he grew old overnight would be criminal. Austin Trout defeated Miguel Cotto because of strategy and technique. Let me ask– was there any mention of physical decline regarding Miguel Cotto prior to the fight? As a matter of fact, most of the talk heading in was that the untested Austin Trout may indeed be in well over his head, so much so that many were already contemplating and plotting Miguel Cotto’s next opponent.

To blame Cotto’s defeat on anything other than a superb show of boxing skill really does take away from a masterful display by Austin Trout. For that reason, I’m going to highlight some of the techniques that Austin Trout performed brilliantly in defeating Miguel Cotto.

While I thought Austin Trout won this fight based on a superior set of skills and a better game plan, his physical attributes must be addressed.

Miguel Cotto vs Austin Trout

Notice the difference in height between Austin Trout and Miguel Cotto. It’s not often you see a height differential like this outside of watching the Klitschko brothers feast on smaller heavyweights.

At 5’10’’ and with a 73’’ reach, Austin Trout was at a huge physical advantage over Miguel Cotto, who at 5’ 7’’ with only a 67’’ reach, was always going to have to try and get inside on his larger opponent. It mustn’t be forgotten that not too long ago, Miguel Cotto was competing at 140 pounds. Cotto has moved into the junior middleweight division with age. During his physical prime, he was either a natural junior welterweight or a natural welterweight. On the other hand, Austin Trout is a natural junior middleweight, with wide shoulders and a wide back,  who’s fought in the division all his life. Because he’s still only 27 years-old, it’s not inconceivable to think that he could one day fight as a middleweight. Add to this the fact that Cotto fights small –hunched over on his lead foot- then he really was up against it physically. However, Trout’s size would have counted for nothing if he didn’t know how to put it to good use.

Left hand to the stomach

Right from the opening bell, Austin Trout began working behind his southpaw jab, as well as throwing a straight left hand into the pit of Miguel Cotto’s stomach. First, Trout would be on his back foot, looking to maintain the distance using his jab. As Cotto came forward looking to get inside, Trout would first occupy him with either a feint or a right hand, before dropping low and firing his straight left hand.

Miguel Cotto vs Austin Trout

Cotto is standing flat footed inside his usual high guard. Notice how Trout first occupies Cotto with his right jab before dropping low and landing his straight left hand between Cotto’s elbows. It was never Trout’s intention to land his right jab, only to take the eye away from the real attack.

Miguel Cotto vs Austin Trout

Again, Cotto is standing in his usual high guard. Trout throws his right jab up top to first occupy Cotto, before dropping low and landing his straight left hand.

Miguel Cotto vs Austin Trout

Here’s Cotto in his high guard again. Trout taps Cotto’s gloves with a right jab to keep Cotto’s guard high and tight. With Cotto still peeking out behind his high gloves, Trout drops low and fires another left hand into Cotto’s stomach. This time, Trout has changed the arc of the shot. Instead of it coming in straight, he swept it around. Trout continued to make little adjustments to his offense throughout the fight.

Here’s one last look at that left hand to the stomach

Screen shot 2012-12-03 at 12.13.26 PM

Cotto contiuned to peek out from behind a very high guard, and Trout continued to take advantage. Again, Trout dropped low and swept his left hand between Cotto’s elbows and deep into his stomach.

The importance of Trout’s left hand to the stomach cannot be over stressed. For me, this was the key to Trout’s success. The straight left hand to Cotto’s body did two things.

  • It wore Cotto down and sapped his stamina. Cotto seemed to fade towards the final stretch. Trout’s left hand to the stomach was the reason why.

  • Because Trout set an early attack pattern of going low, once he began to bring his attack back upstairs, Cotto wasn’t ready for it. This is something Floyd Mayweather does extremely well. Although they may not be aware of it, an opponent will usually make slight adjustments to their stance or guard in order to compensate for a low body attack. Once they do, it makes it easier to for an opponent to land an attack back up top and more difficult for the recipient of the attack to read it

The uppercut

As the fight progressed and Cotto began to slow down some, Trout started to throw well-timed uppercuts through Cotto’s guard.

Miguel Cotto vs Austin Trout

Trout used the same method of attack as before. First, Trout occupied Cotto with a right jab, before threading his left uppercut through the center. Cotto’s high guard leaves him vulnerable to uppercuts. This tactical adjustment was an astute observation from Trout.

Miguel Cotto vs Austin Trout

Here’s another variation of Trout’s uppercut. Cotto’s in his high guard. This time, Trout occupies Cotto with a lead left hand. Just as Trout’s left hand is extended, he comes back with a right uppercut/shovel hook {the angle is slightly different, but what’s important is that it’s still coming from underneath} before dropping his left hook into Cotto’s stomach. At this stage in the fight, Trout’s attack variety was outstanding.

This next sequence captures Austin Trout’s punch variation perfectly.

Screen shot 2012-12-03 at 12.17.07 PM

Here, Trout lands a left uppercut before bringing the same arm back and landing a left hook. Mike Tyson was famous for landing the hook to the body followed by an uppercut through the center, but this is an even tougher combination to pull off. Sure, Cotto’s high guard gives him more time, but this type of attack still requires a lot of hand speed and precision.

Although Trout began to land with some pretty unconventional combinations {on display above} the technique involved in the simple things he did was also noteworthy.

Screen shot 2012-12-03 at 12.18.07 PM

Notice Trout’s left glove as he’s threading his jab through Cotto’s high guard. If Cotto tries to counter with a right hand, Trout’s left glove is in position to block it. Also, notice how Trout is moving to his right to gain an outside angle for his straight left hand. As both men release their shots at the same time, Trout’s straight left hand finds the target whereas Cotto’s left jab sails wide.


It wasn’t just offensively where Austin Trout shone Saturday night. He also did an excellent job on defense. Miguel Cotto is a converted southpaw in that his power hand is actually his left hand but he chooses to lead with it out of an orthodox stance. Therefore, Cotto’s primary offensive weapon is his left hand and in particular, his left hook the head and body. For the most part, Austin Trout did a terrific job of eliminating Cotto’s left hook threat.

Miguel Cotto vs Austin Trout

Here, Trout is on his back foot while Cotto is looking to close the distance and land his left hook. As Cotto throws his left, Trout catches him on the way in with a right hook before reversing his direction and retreating. This tactic was a favorite of another slick southpaw, Pernell Whitaker.

Screen shot 2012-12-03 at 12.20.45 PM

Here, Trout uses his right hand to gauge the distance between himself and Cotto. As Cotto tries to land a left hook, Trout simply takes a step back and allows Cotto’s left hook to fall short. Cotto was well out of range, but because Trout was touching him, he felt that Trout was hittable. This is a tactic often used by Wladimir Klitschko.

As I mentioned earlier, Cotto is a converted southpaw. Because his lead hand is his power hand, he seldom uses his non dominant hand -his right- and if he does, he’s not all that effective with it. As almost anyone with an incline of boxing knowledge will tell you, the best weapon against the southpaw is the straight right hand. This hurt Cotto a lot Saturday night.

Screen shot 2012-12-03 at 12.21.58 PM

This is an excellent sequence highlighting a few things. First, notice Cotto’s body shape as he’s firing the jab. He’s standing upright and his head is central. By contrast, Trout is dipping low and has taken his head away from the center line and to the outside of Cotto’s jab. As Trout lands his straight left and Cotto’s jab misses the target, take a look at what Trout does next. He rolls under and out to the right of Cotto. This is a stroke of tactical genius against a converted southpaw. Usually, a southpaw will move to his right, away from an orthodox fighter’s right hand. Here, Trout is moving to his left, away from Cotto’s power left. Throughout the fight, Trout spent a lot of time moving to his left to avoid Cotto’s left hand.

Miguel Cotto vs Austin Trout

In this sequence, Trout is occupying Cotto with his right hand before gaining a dominant angle yet again for his straight left hand. As Cotto is throwing his jab, Trout manages to get his lead foot on the outside of Cotto’s lead foot and fires a straight left hand. Because Trout has the outside position, his straight left lands whereas Cotto’s jab missed the target. After connecting, Trout rolls under and out towards Cotto’s right. Even though Cotto throws a right hand as Trout is rolling under, Trout knows that there’s less danger present by exiting towards Cotto’s right instead of his left. Manny Pacquiao also had a lot of success against Cotto by employing this tactic.

All in all, I thought this was a remarkable display from Austin Trout. Sure, Miguel Cotto had his moments, namely when he landed a left hook that seemed to wobble Trout momentarily and also there were a few occasions during the fight when he managed to pin Trout up on the ropes and get in a few good shots, but for me, this was Austin Trout’s night. Even when Trout was up on the ropes, he did a good job of rolling and slipping Cotto’s shots.

From where I was looking, the biggest problem Cotto was faced with was he needs to set himself and plant his feet in order to let his shots go. Yes, Cotto does plenty of bouncing around between punches, but he struggles to let his hands go unless his opponent is either pinned up on the ropes or is right in front of him. Most of the time, Cotto’s weight is over on his front foot. Because of this, should a fighter move off quickly, Cotto struggles to get off.

Needless to say, because Trout was always backing up and moving side to side, Cotto found it tough to get set, and in turn, get off. When Cotto did manage to close the distance and was just about to throw, Trout would either feint him into covering up or occupy him with the jab before landing some shots of his own, or he would simply move off to a different angle. Either way, Trout prevented Cotto from landing with any regularity.

Miguel Cotto has been beaten before. But I’ve never seen him out slicked like this. Not even Floyd Mayweather managed to out box Miguel Cotto the way Austin Trout did Saturday night. And that’s saying something.

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