By Francisco Salazar
Austin Trout once had a chip on his shoulder.
Who can blame him?
He was unbeaten in 26 fights, held a world title fight, and was considered at one time by some as the top junior middleweight in the world.
Fast forward past the two defeats he has suffered in a span of eight months and that chip has wound up on the floor.
After some time away from the ring, Trout believes he can return to the same glory that catapulted him to greatness. A win tonight could be a step towards that direction.
Trout will take on Daniel Dawson in a scheduled 12 round bout at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Pechanga, Calif. The bout headlines a Goossen Tutor Promotions card and will be televised live on ESPN2, beginning at 9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT.
The last time the boxing world saw Trout was when he lost a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision to Erislandy Lara in December. Prior to that bout, his stock in the sport was still very high, despite losing a close 12 round unanimous decision to Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.
Like any fighter, the losses struck a cord with Trout, so much so that he believed some changes had to be made. The defeats also made the native from Las Cruces, N.M. that he should never stray away from what has been successful in his previous fights.
It was a lesson learned that hard way, humbling him as well.
"It's like starting all over again," Trout told Boxingscene.com in a phone interview on Tuesday. "After the second loss, I had to realize what was going on. In those two losses, I felt I was too tight. I found myself forcing everything when I'm a rhythm fighter. I was forcing things early rather than letting the fight come to me."
"In the Alvarez fight, I wasn't dominated or beat up. But I realized I needed more time away from the ring. Instead, I jumped into the Lara fight. I didn't feel comfortable and it wasn't easy."
Trout gets back in the ring against Dawson, an Australian junior middleweight who has two notable defeats at the hands of Daniel Geale and Sergey Dzinziruk. In his last bout in September, Dawson won a 12 round unanimous decision over Alex Bunema.
Dawson may not be a ranked world title contender, but it is a competitive and safe enough opponent for Trout to regain his confidence against.
That confidence blossomed after winning a world title belt in February of 2011, defeating Rigoberto Alvarez by unanimous decision in Alvarez's hometown of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. His career was at his highest almost two years later when he defeated Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
While both fights would have been equally as satisfying for Trout, one was bittersweet.
"When I defeated Alvarez, I was asked for autographs and pictures with fans (in Guadalajara). When I came back, no one greeted me. When I defeated Cotto, people came to greet me at the airport. The recognition came after the Cotto fight, something I didn't have."
The losses to Alvarez and Lara also brought about a wave of criticism from writers and hardcore boxing fans.
Whether that criticism was warranted is up for debate, but he did pay attention to those who stuck by his side during this bad stretch of his career.
"That period definitely chewed me up and spit me out. I was able to see how people questioned my heart. But I was able to lean on family and friends who were there for me."
Trout has a lot to prove and he accepts that challenge. Not only does Trout believe he could win a world title again, but he also believes he can return to that elite status he achieved after the Cotto fight.
Trout took a long and lonely road from Las Cruces, N.M. to become a world champion. He hopes that road to greatness is shorter, but he carries with wisdom and understanding of what it takes to get there.
"I want to be a champion again and my focus is on getting rematches against (Saul) Alvarez and Lara. I want to be where Floyd (Mayweather) is at today. I want to be one of the best ever."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing