Success, like many things in life, is a matter of hard work, skill, and most importantly, luck. This is not a statement of illuminated profoundness; it’s simply a matter of fact. Man puts long arduous hours into becoming a skilled artisan at his craft, and then, simply hopes that ,when the opportunity arises, he grabs the proverbial brass ring that so many others have reached for.
In boxing, modern success is defined by achieving a definitive win over the old guard; the few pugs, whom the public acknowledges as being “elite” — or more importantly, buys tickets for. Austin “No Doubt” Trout (26-0, 14 KOs) is the latest upstart to claim boxing relevance by dethroning an enfranchised member of the old guard. On a crisp, late fall evening the Las Cruces, New Mexico native humbled boxing’s latest Puerto Rican guardian, Miguel Cotto, over twelve convincing rounds in the arena, Madison Square Garden, that Cotto came to know as a sanctuary. Las Vegas had been the sight of his multiple humblings, but the Garden resonated with Cotto. He had never been defeated in the hallowed hall that housed Ali-Frazier, and many other classics. Alas, time reared its ugly head, and Trout seized a moment that catapaulted him into a rare air only shared by Antonio Margarito, Manny Pacquiao, and Floyd Mayweather. Trout has arrived.
Excuse the cliche, but it wasn’t an easy road for Trout to the Garden. His early career was bungled and mismanaged with the precision of a marksman. The majority of his career was a grand tour of the many ballrooms and bingo halls that the American Southwest has to offer. He picked up wins, and small paychecks, while his larger name failed to resonate with the boxing public. Not afforded the triumphant arenas of America, he traveled to Mexico to take the vacant WBA junior middleweight title in a convincing win over Rigoberto Alvarez — the less sophisticated brother of Golden Boy idol Saul Alvarez, who Trout, now, hopes to encounter. His first two title defenses, of said belt, were sparsely attended encounters with effete “contenders”. The media payed him no attention, and the networks couldn’t be bothered with a slick black fighter who had the gall not to display the petulant behavior that they liked from their African Americans pugilists — if you feel this statement is out of line, explain then why HBO has never had a problem airing Adrien Broner’s squash matches, or the networks keep Zab Judah around for all his latest reincarnations.
A few marquee fights were discussed for Trout, but they quickly faded away into the dry New Mexico air; networks don’t buy technicians who don’t spout off about absurd nonsense. Unless… they’re managed by someone that makes the networks take notice. That’s when boxing super-manager Al Haymon entered the picture like the triumphant deus ex machina . Shortly after signing with Haymon, Trout had found himself with a date against Cotto in Madison Square Garden. The boxing gods — undoubtedly convinced by Haymon, the most powerful man in the sport, at this point – had smiled on the man with the monicker of “No Doubt”. It was an odd fight for Trout to land. Undoubtedly, his large, muscular frame coupled with his eviscerating jab posed a major threat to Cotto. What’s more is that Trout’s nonexistent name recognition offered Cotto no reward in stepping into the same ring with the man. The same tickets would have been sold in the Garden had Cotto’s opponent been one of the myriad of no-hope retreads that populate the 154 lb division. Alas, the fight happened, and Trout seized the moment.
From the onset, Cotto appeared chubby, lethargic, and hopelessly outsized by Trout, who has an ideal boxing physique; long, compact, and possessing strong legs. Cotto did his normal routine: he pressed the action, fired off hooks to the body with his scamp arms, and kept looking for the right hand. Trout, however, quickly out muscled Cotto on the inside, which allowed himself the distance to pepper his right hand jab, all night. By the midway point of the fight, Cotto had slowed from a repeated assault of Trout jabs, and the champion started to unload with lefts to Cotto’s, now, ample belly. It’s not as if Cotto had retreated or failed to execute his game plan, It was just that Trout was the antithesis of what the Puerto Rican hero needed in the late stages of his legendary career. A natural lightweight was not meant to be bullied by a legitimate 154 lber, who has quick feet and an excellent jab.
Some — more accurately, those impressed by Cotto’s late attempts to steal rounds — felt the fight was closer than the wide scorecard indicated, but that would give off the impression that Cotto looked strong as the final bell sounded. Rather, the once fearless warrior was marked up with welts and sores, and displayed the aura of a defeated man who had been soundly outboxed by a young upstart. It’s a tale that’s been told many times before in boxing, and Cotto fell victim to the same narrative. Austin Trout has flaws, but with an ample amount of physical gifts, and the right people guiding his career, has seized a moment which was crafted for him. His future as a legitimate ticket-selling star remains in doubt, but his chances to be a menacing threat to all fighters surrounding him, appears to be brighter than ever.