By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — Stephen Espinoza expects Austin Trout to test Miguel Cotto.
The potential prize for Showtime Sports is to match Cotto against Mexican star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, but Espinoza knows the popular Puerto Rican star isn’t in for an easy night Dec. 1 at Madison Square Garden. Showtime’s executive vice president of sports and event programming projected a much more competitive fight than envisioned by many of the vocal Cotto supporters who attended a public press conference to promote the fight at the El Museo Del Barrio in Manhattan.
“I think people will be surprised,” Espinoza said. “The awareness of Austin Trout is not high, especially on the East Coast. But he’s young and strong and athletic, a really skilled fighter, just really fundamentally sound. So I’m expecting a really tough fight, much tougher than most people think. I give all the credit in the world to Miguel because he has come off a couple of tough fights in a row [against Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Antonio Margarito] and this doesn’t get any easier.”
The 27-year-old Trout (25-0, 14 KOs), a skilled southpaw from Las Cruces, N.M., out-boxed Delvin Rodriguez (26-6-3, 14 KOs) in a mostly forgettable 12-round, 154-pound title fight June 2 in Carson, Calif. Showtime televised Trout’s WBA super welterweight title defense that night, too, as part of a quadrupleheader from Home Depot Center.
Cotto (37-3, 30 KOs) last fought on Showtime 18 months ago, when he stopped maniacal Nicaraguan Ricardo Mayorga (29-8-1, 1 NC) in the 12th round of their WBA super welterweight title fight at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
The 31-year-old Cotto’s last two fights have been broadcast by HBO Pay-Per-View, but Espinoza considers the Trout fight an indication that Showtime will have a shot at televising future Cotto fights, most notably a possible showdown with Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs).
“It’s huge, because he is one of the biggest names in the sport,” Espinoza said of securing the rights to air the Cotto-Trout bout. “It’ll be a great fight, but it’s also important symbolically to continue showing that we are going to be competitive for the biggest fights — day-in, day-out, year-in, year-out. We’re here to stay. This was a fight that was hotly pursued by both networks and we extended ourselves quite a bit to get it because it’ll be a great fight.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.