By Cliff Rold
Madison Square Garden, New York City – In front of 13,096 noisy fans on Saturday night, largely unknown 27-year old WBA Light Middleweight titlist Austin Trout (26-0, 14 KO) of Las Cruces, New Mexico, used accurate right hands and a steady jab to defeat 32-year old former three-division titlist Miguel Cotto (37-4, 30 KO) of Caguas, Puerto Rico in an exceptionally well fought contest.
It was a disappointment for Cotto fans who saw their man lose for the first time in eight starts at Madison Square Garden and ten overall in New York City. It was also Cotto’s second consecutive defeat after a decision loss to Floyd Mayweather in May.
Mayweather continues to hold the WBA’s “Super” title in the division, as opposed to the belt Trout has now successfully defended four times.
Trout came into the contest at the division limit of 154 lbs. Cotto came in a shade under at 153 ½. The referee was Charlie Fitch.
A ten-bell salute to former three-division champion Hector “Macho” Camacho had the crowd chanting “Macho” in full-throated adoration. Moments later, the image of Trout on the jumbotron above the ring had those same faithful in a state of lustful hate, boos raining down from seemingly every direction.
They got louder when Trout made his way to the ring. It was nothing compared to the Steve Austin-like pop of the crowd when the ringwalk music of Cotto blared over the arena speakers. Another decibel was reached as Cotto started towards the ring. That big fight feeling was in the air.
At the bell for round one, both men came out jabbing, the longer southpaw Trout mixing in a clubbing right hook lead near the halfway mark of the round. He looped another right around Cotto’s guard and landed a straight shot to the body, Cotto responding with a flurry to force Trout into the ropes. Little landed and Trout shook his head to say so. An overhand left from Trout wobbled Cotto, who collected himself and fired back with a left hook. Down the stretch, Cotto ate another left, answering with some digging body shots.
The second round was better for Cotto, the veteran doing his best to make Trout uncomfortable by getting close and working rough inside. Trout stayed on his gameplan, working the jab repeatedly and looking to land counter lefts.
A sneaky lead left uppercut inside sent sweat flying off the head of Trout in round three, the titlist quickly going back to the perimeter. From the outside, Trout landed a straight left, Cotto staying in full stalker mode. Briefly trapping Trout in the corner, Cotto landed to the body, chased Trout across the ring, and did it again. Cotto continued to press, closing with a left hook to the head of Trout near the ropes.
Trout, sometimes pushing his shots, wisely kept his hands moving enough to appear to win the fourth round. Cotto though landed some rugged blows, including a right to the head that brought a quick wiggle to the legs of Trout.
With Cotto showing some swelling around the left eye, and Trout the right, they resumed the action in round five with strategies intact. Trout wanted to box, Cotto wanted to get close and rip. Each had their moments. A low blow to Cotto brought a short respite and Trout received a warning from Fitch.
Nearing the midway point of the sixth, a wicked straight right from Cotto blasted the face of Trout. Trout shook his head no and Cotto said yes with a follow-up combination to the body. Another right at mid-ring caught Trout, who looked like he slipped a little on the ring paint. He kept his feet and, late in the round, put Cotto on his bicycle with a left. They closed the round brawling on the ropes, Cotto landing one last right and heading to the corner marked under he left eye.
A double right lead opened a left hook for Cotto early in the seventh, Cotto moments later winning an exchange of hooks. Trout took over from there, jabbing and scoring with lefts while Cotto stepped forward too often without his jab.
Round eight saw good work from both fighters, Cotto landing some eye catching rights and eating Trout lefts on the way in. A break was called for loose tape on Trout’s glove and they resumed. Trout landed two quick lead hooks before ending the round in the corner, both men exchanging.
Trout was warned for low blows again in the ninth, a commercial interlude in a round going Trout’s way. A walkway left uppercut before the foul, and some snapping rights after had the challenger falling behind. Cotto, perhaps flagging, began to work the ring and play keep away. In the last seconds, he was able to sucker Trout in and land some thudding hooks.
The start of round ten was delayed to attend to more loose tape on the glove of Trout, precious seconds for a Cotto whose face was increasingly messy. Cotto took advantage, jumping right on Trout and appearing to be winning the round until the final minute when Trout started to unload with clean shots. Cotto mauled Trout on the ropes to stem the tide and ended the round with a fan friendly right hand.
The fans booed loudly as round eleven started with another glove issue for Trout. When they stepped out to the fight, the crowd chanted for their man, attempting to will him through. Trout willed himself to keep landing over the noise, Cotto forced in large part to play counter puncher. A right hand late seemed to stun Cotto, but he bounced off the ropes with a hard left hook and both men landed in heated back and forth towards the bell.
Round twelve devolved into the best kind of street fight, Cotto taking shots to give them with both men working hard on the inside. With the seconds ticking off the clock, Trout landed a clean right and Cotto fired back, both men letting loose one more time to end a crowd pleasing bout.
BoxingScene scored the bout 115-113 for Trout, who waited in his corner to see if he’d done enough to end Cotto’s unbeaten run in the Garden. He did and it wasn’t remotely close on the cards at a reasonable 117-111 twice and a wild 119-109.
Cotto said little after the fight, leaving the ring after shortly acknowledging the decision and indicating he would fight on. Trout gave “much respect” to Cotto and called the win a “dream come true.” Looking to the future, Trout said he’d like a showdown with WBC titlist Saul Alvarez who was in attendance one would assume in hopes of a bigger money showdown with Cotto.
If money trumps merit, it would be no surprise if Alvarez (40-0-1, 30 KO) still went that direction. Let’s hope not. Trout has proved he belongs with the big fish in the Jr. Middleweight division.
27-year old Featherweight Salvador Sanchez III (30-5-3, 18 KO), 125 ¼, of Tianguistenco, Mexico, entered the ring in the red velvet trunks his late Hall of Fame uncle Salvador Sanchez wore for what would be his final fight against Azumah Nelson at Madison Square Garden on July 21, 1982. Sanchez came from behind to stop Nelson in the final round that night.
His nephew wasn’t as lucky two decades later. 24-year old Jayson Velez (20-0, 15 KO), 125 ¾, of Juncos, Puerto Rico, was too good for that on the night, scoring two knockdowns on the way to a stoppage in three rounds.
After a measured first round, Velez began to unleash the heavy artillery in round two. A right and left landed flush to put Sanchez on the defensive. Pursuing with accurate power shots, Velez continued to dole out the punishment as Sanchez did his best to stay away. Inside the final ten seconds, a left cracked Sanchez and had him looking to hold. Taking a step back for room, Velez landed a booming right hand, Sanchez lurching forward on all fours. Sanchez beat the count of referee Harvey Dock and headed to his corner on rubber legs.
The third picked up where the second let up. A right uppercut had Sanchez on all fours again. Again, he rose and Dock let the fight go on. Velez trapped Sanchez on the ropes and landed a right hand to send sweat spraying well into press row. Seconds later, another right had Sanchez reeling and Dock had seen enough, waving the fight off at :38 seconds of round three. The crowd roared as Velez collapsed to the floor in joy.
Velez entered the bout rated #10 by the WBC and, with the win, captures a WBC silver belt to pull into heavy contention for a crack at WBC titlist Daniel Ponce De Leon (44-4, 35 KO). Speaking in the post-fight interview, Velez stated, “I feel so happy. This is unbelievable…I have no words.”
Velez, to the delight of the crowd, dedicated the win to Puerto Rican great Wilfredo Gomez, who lost to the senior Sanchez in a major Featherweight title fight in 1981. Speaking about a showdown with Mexico’s De Leon, Velez said, “I want the fight. I think he wants the fight too. Mexico and Puerto Rico is always a war.”
In the televised opener, the inspiring comeback story of cancer survivor Danny Jacobs continued.
The 25-year old Middleweight Jacobs (24-1, 21 KO), 161 ¼, of Brooklyn, New York, gave a workmanlike performance, breaking down a brave but outmatched 25-year old Chris Fitzpatrick (15-3, 6 KO), 163 ¼, of Cleveland, Ohio, and forcing a corner retirement after the fifth round.
Jacobs came out in an aggressive posture behind a southpaw right jab, Fitzpatrick trying to establish his jab and working in a left hook. Both men landed single, hard body shots as the round unfolded, Jacob chose to box steady and let Fitzpatrick try to force the fight. It was much the same in the second, the boo birds unleashed in the crowd as the paying masses waited for someone to genuinely engage.
A clash of heads in round three brought a crimson stain to the hairline of Fitzpatrick. The sight of blood seemed to wake Jacobs up as he let his hands go more, briefly trapping the tough “Irish Ghost” on the ropes twice with hammering blows. Fitzpatrick covered well and never really looked hurt.
Another sustained assault along the ropes wouldn’t come until late in the fifth. Referee Steve Willis kept close watch as Jacobs went to work but, again Fitzpatrick covered fairly well. A left hook to the body seemed close to bowling him over but he sucked it up and stayed on his feet. Once back on the safety of his stool, Fitzpatrick’s corner kept him from getting back on them, notifying Willis their man would not go on.
Interviewed following the bout, Jacobs acknowledged the boos of the crowd but stated he was satisfied with his performance and that he looked forward to getting more rounds in his comeback. A statement of respect for the recently deceased Hector “Macho” Camacho had him back in the Garden’s good graces.
In the last bout before the main televised portion of the evening began, 23-year old Jr. Middleweight Jorge Melendez (25-2-1, 24 KO), 155, of Manati, Puerto Rico, laid a one-sided battering on 34-year old James Winchester (15-7, 5 KO), 155, of Greensboro, North Carolina, to score a stoppage in the fourth.
After scoring knockdowns in rounds two and three, Melendez looked to close the show in the fourth. A body tangle at mid-ring sent Winchester to the floor. No knockdown was scored. Winchester motioned that he had hurt his leg or ankle and was given a moment to walk it off. The crowd booed nastily at Winchester who nodded, in pain, that he could go on. It didn’t last much longer, Melendez trapping him on the ropes and ripping with both fists, referee Ricky Gonzalez saving Winchester at :54 second of round four.
20-year old Lightweight Jeffrey Fontanez (9-0, 8 KO), 134 ½, of Caguas, Puerto Rico, wasted little time in impressing the Garden crowd, scoring three knockdowns to earn a second round stoppage of 25-year old Pedro Arcos (12-3-1, 9 KO), 134 ¾, of Tijuana, Mexico. It was the second knockout loss in the career of Arcos.
Delivering a jolt of electricity to a growing crowd, Fontanez scored knockdowns in the first and second rounds. Arcos tried gamely to fight back in the latter round, landing some winging left hooks off the ropes to no affect. A final left hook turned Arcos’ legs to spaghetti, sending him kneeling involuntarily along the ropes, only his left arm keeping him from melting into the canvas. Referee Tony Chiarantano waved the fight closed at 1:23 of round two.
22-year old Michael Perez (18-1-1, 10 KO), 135 ½, of Newark, New Jersey, scored two knockdowns and shook off a trip to the floor to win an exciting eight round war by unanimous decision against a game 22-year old Fernando Carcamo (10-5, 7 KO), 135 ¾, of Obregon, Mexico.
Perez began the fight in explosive fashion, rocking Carcamo and then dropping him hard with a left hook. Carcamo beat the count and landed some hard rights as the round progressed while also suffering two pushes to the floor. Round two was an immediate reversal of fortune, Carcamo storming out and dropping Perez with a left. Shaken, Perez went to the neutral corner shaking his head to clear the cobwebs as the referee proceeded with his mandatory eight count. Carcamo would stalk Perez for the rest of the round.
There were no knockdowns in rounds three or four, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Both men aware they could hurt and be hurt, they picked their spots to land echoing leather. Perez almost had Carcamo ready to go again in round five, a right hand badly damaging a Carcamo whose legs still looked rubbery for most the next thirty seconds. Perhaps wary based on previous experience on the night, Perez never went all out to see how close to the edge Carcamo really was.
The fight, while still rugged, slowed considerably in the next two rounds. Exhausted, battered, both men went more to the trenches, grinding and working through blue-collar paces.
As the eighth round and final round progressed, Carcamo seemed to hurt Perez to the body. Perez evened the score near the minute mark with a vicious left the head. With only seconds to go, Perez landed a rollicking right uppercut to send Carcamo to his back. Carcamo beat the count, and avoided being hurt again before the bell, but the punctuation mark on his defeat had been posted.
Perez, to the delight of an enthusiastic cheering section in the rafters, was announced the winner at scores of 78-71 and 77-72 twice. The referee was Steve Willis.
Fans who arrived for a full night of boxing got a high quality show in the evening’s third contest. 25-year old Featherweight Jorge Diaz (17-1, 10 KO), 122 ½, of New Brunswick, New Jersey, earned a hard fought shutout over six rounds against 20-year old Victor Sanchez (3-5-1), 126, of Houston, Texas. Diaz scored a knockdown with a massive right hand in the first and the bout looked on the way to an early finish. Sanchez dug in and made it the route, both men giving the fans exciting exchanges. The best action came in the final minutes of round four, Diaz working over Sanchez on the ropes and Sanchez firing back with everything he had. Final scores came in at 60-53 across the board. The referee was Ricky Gonzalez.
20-year old Jr. Middleweight Eddie Gomez (12-0, 8 KO), 150, The Bronx, New York, lost a point for low blows in the final round but otherwise found little struggle en route to a unanimous six-round decision over now once-defeated Luis Hernandez (9-1, 5 KO), of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Final scores were tallied at a shutout 59-54 twice and 58-55. The referee was Tony Chiarantano.
The non-televised portion of the show opened in the Middleweight division. Undefeated 23-year old John Thompson (10-0, 3 KO), 156 ½, of Newark New Jersey, won a lopsided six-round unanimous decision over 27-year old Eli Agustama (6-6, 3 KO), 158, of Port Au Prince, Haiti. Agustama was able to win the final round on two of the three judges cards to mark an honest effort but scores came in clear at a shutout 60-54 and 59-55 twice. The referee was Tony Chiarantano.
The card was televised in the U.S. on Showtime as part of its “Championship Boxing” series, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]