by Cliff Rold
No one can win a big fight in boxing until they do. No one can win a big fight in boxing until they get one.
Austin Trout, who has had a quiet career to date, has his big fight. In Madison Square Garden, he has one of the most accomplished fighters of this generation. It doesn’t matter that he is the defending titlist. Holding the WBA’s lower case ‘world’ title (as opposed to their so-called “Super” title that Cotto just lost to Floyd Mayweather) isn’t worth a ton.
When a fighter would have a hard time selling out their living room, what matters is exposure. Trout has that. A Showtime “All-Access” profile and a big-time main event is exposure. Without victory, it will be fleeting.
Can Trout make his moment into more?
Let’s go to the report card.
Title/Previous Titles: WBA
Height: 5’9 ½
Weight: 154 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 153.7 lbs.
Hails from: Las Cruces, New Mexico
Record: 25-0, 14 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #7 at Jr. Middleweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-0, 1 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 0
Previous Titles: WBA Light Middleweight (2010-12, 2 Defenses); WBO Welterweight (2009, 1 Defense); WBA Welterweight (2006-08, 4 Defenses); WBO Light Welterweight (2004-06, 6 Defenses)
Weight: 153.6 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 151.8 lbs.
Hails from: Caguas, Puerto Rico
Record: 37-3, 30 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #2 at Jr. Middleweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 17-3, 14 KO, 2 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 16 (Cesar Bazan TKO11; Carlos Maussa TKO8; Lovemore N’Dou UD12; Randall Bailey TKO6; DeMarcus Corley TKO5; Ricardo Torres KO7; Paulie Malignaggi UD12; Carlos Quintana RTD5; Zab Judah TKO11; Shane Mosley UD12; Antonio Margarito KO by 11, RTD10; Joshua Clottey SD12; Manny Pacquiao KO by 12; Yuri Foreman TKO9; Ricardo Mayorga TKO12; Floyd Mayweather L12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Trout A; Cotto B
Pre-Fight: Power – Trout B-; Cotto B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Trout B+; Cotto B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Trout B+; Cotto A
Reviewing the fights of Trout, what jumps out as Cotto’s primary concern is dealing with the active southpaw right jab of the taller, younger, and quicker man. Trout’s jab is educated, varying speeds and directions to open up straight right hands and tricky, short hooks and uppercuts in close. Trout hasn’t faced the same level of foe as Cotto but he’s fought at Middleweight plus a few pounds and is far more established at the weight. Against Delvin Rodriguez and Rigoberto Alvarez, he’s shown the ability to dominate opponents on the fringe of contention even if, in the case of the former, it isn’t always thrilling.
Trout is one of those effective pros that don’t appear to be overwhelming in any one category. He has a sound fundamental base that allows him to do things right consistently and with fluidity. Those can be very tough fighters to beat and the feeling that Cotto has his hands full is well founded.
As BoxingTalk’s Stephen Edwards has pointed out, Cotto’s jab is as much a key as Trout’s. Cotto’s jab isn’t as frequent but it is hard and accurate. He kept himself viable with Mayweather by jabbing, making himself small and then coming up with the stick. If he can do that with Trout, the titlist could be stuck in transitions and forced to reset. This would allow Cotto to land his big hooks to the body and, eventually, the hook to the head and short right hand.
Trout also punches well to the body and could use that to wear down Cotto. For all his experience edge, Cotto also brings many more scars and miles more wear into this battle. If the battle becomes exacting, if exchanges are prolonged, Cotto could be in trouble. Cotto has shown defensive improvement under his latest trainer and was harder to find against Mayweather than expected. Trout, to date, has shown excellent head movement and blocking ability. We’ll see if it sustains as his competition improves.
In terms of intangibles, Trout has shown up to his levels of progression thus far but question marks remain. Those can only be answered in his steps up. That begins Saturday. How does he handle an experienced pressure fighter? What does he do if Cotto buzzes him?
Cotto is a known commodity. He can be hurt, but also has shown the ability to recuperate, if not always consistently. He can be cut but manages not to stop fighting when he does. At the Garden, he’s never lost, his closest call coming against Clottey.
Is the home field a factor in this one?
When this fight was initially signed, the first thought was Trout was just the wrong opponent. His size and physical gifts, along with his skill set, stood out. If he rises to the occasion and defeats Cotto, it would be no shock.
However, watching both men in recent vintage, Cotto remains Cotto and Trout hasn’t overly impressed. He’s good, but he didn’t overwhelm Rodriguez and the bout was a bit dull. Cotto doesn’t do dull and his pressure and experience, plus any confidence he picked up in giving Mayweather a truly tough outing, should keep him in the mix for at least a little longer.
He’s been to the dance many times. This is Trout’s first time with the big notes and he’s not a punishing puncher so far. All of that points to one more title, one more big Garden party, for Cotto. It should be close, but the pick is Cotto by decision.
Report Card Picks 2012: 59-22
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transanational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org