As a youth in Las Cruces, New Mexico, whose goal it was to be a professional fighter, Austin Trout often dreamed of some day vanquishing his boyhood boxing idols.
“It was Money Mayweather, when I was a kid, and even when I was in high school, it was Roy Jones Jr. that was the vision that I had,” said Trout, now a 27-year-old undefeated junior middleweight.
“I even go back and visualize me beating Sugar Ray Leonard or even Pernell Whitaker in good fashion, to name a few. There are many, though. I have a big list of fighters that I really admire, and Miguel Cotto is on that list.”
Trout (25-0, 14 knockouts) will get a real-life look at Cotto (37-3, 30 KOs) in Saturday night’s Showtime-televised clash at New York’s Madison Square Garden, where he will defend his WBA “regular” title in a venue where the Puerto Rican challenger has never lost.
Although the nearly 5-foot-10 Trout believes himself to have a size advantage as well as a southpaw style that has troubled the four-time, three-division titlewinning Cotto in the past, most believe that it will still be a tall order for Trout to win in the Big Apple, where Cotto is immensely popular and undefeated in nine fights, including seven at The Garden over the likes of Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley, Joshua Clottey, Paulie Malignaggi, and Zab Judah.
Trout, however, claims to envision only victory.
“You know, in my day dream about Cotto, which I feel that I can make a reality, it’s to win by knockout,” Trout said.
“It’s a hard, tough fight for a while, but, you know, I come out in the later rounds, pull ahead to get that KO victory. Either way, my hands are raised, whether it’s a decision or a knockout. You know, my visualization is with my hands raised.”
“I know that maybe outside of the boxing world, a lot of people don’t know Austin Trout that well,” said promoter Greg Cohen of Trout, who requested Cotto’s autograph during the Showtime documentary, All Access: Cotto vs. Trout. “But we know that will change on Dec. 1, and that come Dec. 2, Austin Trout will become a household name.”
Much of Trout’s motivation comes from his soon-to-be wife, Taylor Hardardt, and the desire to support his three children, Kaira, 10, Elijah, 5, and Charlotte, 2.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity, and I want to thank Miguel Cotto for allowing me to showcase what I’ve been working on for all of these years on a stage as big as this,” said Trout.
“We know that if it wasn’t for his name … I would probably never have been on this type of platform. So I’m very grateful to him for the opportunity, but I’m also ready for you all to get to know me.”
Trout’s unanimous decision victory over Rigoburto Alvarez in February of last year earned his current belt before Alvarez’s partisan fans at the Arena Colseo in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The then-34-year-old brother of WBC titleholder, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Rigoburto was after his fourth straight victory and his third knockout during that run against Trout.
“It’s Trout’s opportunity, and he’s become used to fighting in hostile territory, as he did in fighting in Guadalajara against Canelo’s brother to win the title in Mexico. So I think that he’s very determined, and he doesn’t want to lose the belt,” said Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer.
“He doesn’t want to lose the title in one of the hottest divisions in the sport, and, obviously, keeping that world title and winning over a legend like Miguel Cotto, he feels will give him all of the opportunities in the world. So he’s going to be ready, and I know that. So it’s going to be a fascinating fight, I think.”
Trout shared about Saturday night’s bout, as wel l as his belief that his experience beating Rigoburto Alvarez has aptly prepared him for Cotto during Monday’s national conference call.
Austin Trout on the fact that Cotto’s past two losses have come against Pacquiao and Mayweather, fighters with fast hands and skills similar to his own:
“We’ve definitely been watching tapes of those two losses, and we’ve also gone back and watched tapes of Miguel Cotto when he was fighting at around 140 and at 147. We plan on executing a game plan that is similar.
“We’re not going to necessarily run, but movement is going to be a big deal as far as our game plan goes, without getting into too much detail. I do understand and I am willing to stand and fight.
“I know that I’m going to have to put a lot of leather on him in order to get a decisive win in Madison Square Garden. So a totally defensive fight is not going to necessarily be the key to victory for me.”
On whether or not he can win a decision in New York:
“You know, I really can’t expend too much energy worrying about the judging or the officiating. You know, all that I have to worry about is what I can actually execute inside that ring.
“I need to execute what I can in the ring, and then, let it be up to God’s hands. As long as I’ve done my best, then, that’s what I’m happy about.
“If they ‘steal it’ from me, then that’s between them and God. All that I can do is focus on what I can do and what I can take care of, and that’s my actions in the ring.”
On how he can go from being a fan and asking for Cotto’s autograph on Showtime’s All Access, to facing and inflicting punishment on the same man in the ring on Saturday:
“It’s funny, because there’s two sides to Austin Trout. There’s Austin Trout who is a fan of boxing, and Austin Trout the fighter.
“You’re going to get two different types of answers. I would say that it’s great fight, and I would love to watch this match up.
“But Austin Trout the fighter is always thinking about it in the back of his mind that, ‘You know, I could beat both of those guys,’ or ‘I can beat that guy.’
So, in the back of my mind, I’ve always sized up any fighter that I’ve been a fan of and really dreamed of. It’s like when I was day dreaming as a kid, or even now, because I’m a day dreamer.
“When I’m fighting in that big arena, the person that I’m beating up is one of my favorite fighters, because, in my opinion, in order to be the best you’ve got to beat the best.
“So, I don’t think that it will be a hard transition from being a fan to a fighter at all. I’ve been doing it my whole career.”
On Cotto being among the fighters he’s beaten up in his dreams:
“It was Money Mayweather, when I was a kid, and even when I was in high school, it was Roy Jones Jr. that was the vision that I had.
“I even go back and visualize me beating Sugar Ray Leonard or even Pernell Whitaker in good fashion, to name a few. There are many, though. I have a big list of fighters that I really admire, and Miguel Cotto is on that list.
“You know, in my day dream about Cotto, which I feel that I can make a reality, it’s to win by knockout. It’s a hard, tough fight for a while, but, you know, I come out in the later rounds, pull ahead to get that KO victory.
“Either way, my hands are raised, whether it’s a decision or a knockout. You know, my visualization is with my hands raised.”
On the importance of his jab against Cotto:
“I’m going to have to keep him away from me, and there’s no better measuring stick than the jab. I have a pretty good jab, so using the jab will definitely be the key. Just as he has a very good jab, you know, and he’s going to try and use it, I’m going to use my jab as well.”
On the fact that Cotto chose to face him over a rematch with Pacquiao or a fight with another boxer:
“You know, now it’s settling in as reality, even after my anonymity and because I wasn’t very well known, and that I’m not the big name and because he’s had such a big name.
“The only thing that I can say is that it’s God’s plan. I feel like it’s part of my destiny to be on this big stage. I’ve got skills and the ability to be in this fight.
“I don’t doubt God’s positioning me to be in this fight. So I feel really good about this fight. I do believe it. I do believe that I will be victorious…I was shocked that he chose to fight a fighter like me.
“A lot of times, I’m looked at as high-risk, low-reward. I figured if I can’t get these fighters to fight me with the belt, then what do I have to do? Who do I have to beat to get these names to come to me.
“But lo and behold, [advisor] Al Haymon and Greg Cohen made the Miguel Cotto fight happen, and I can’t be more appreciative of it.”
On Cotto’s punching power:
“I’ve definitely faced bigger guys, and I fought guys that came down from super middleweight, and they’ve had that body strength and were bigger and stronger than Miguel, as far as that’s concerned.
“And I still pushed them back. But Miguel Cotto is very powerful and explosive fighter, and I’ve not necessarily faced anybody as explosive as him. But I think I’ve faced people who are as strong as him.”
“Losing is really not an option for me. Even if I perform to the best of my ability. I believe that they wouldn’t let me back in. They didn’t really let me in anyway. I sort of had to climb through the window.”
On his personality:
“What’s most important is that I have kids, and my daughter, who is 10 now, she’ll call me out. She would be like, ‘that’s not you, dad.’ You know, I want them to see the real me.
“I feel like to know me is to love me, so I don’t need to put on any type of facade. If I feel one way, then I’m going to express that in my truest form. I feel like that’s very important.
“I’m not saying that an Adrien Broner is not being himself. He’s being himself in what he does. But, you know, that’s just not me. I just want to be me, and let the fans embrace me as me.”
On being at MSG, where Cotto is heavily-favored and supported by partisan fans:
“I just have to make sure that I don’t give them anything to cheer about.
“This is not my first time doing this, so I feel like I’m going to be pretty comfortable being in hostile territory. Really, the crowd can only do one thing, and that’s to make noise.
“They can’t help him get up, they can’t help him to punch harder, and they can’t help to punch faster. I’m preparing for Miguel to be at his absolute best, anyway, so it’s not that I don’t expect him to be at his best.
“My preparation now, the only thing that I’m focused on, is Miguel Cotto in that ring. When I walk into the ring, my whole thing is to shut the crowd up.
“Going into the ring, it’s me against the world, and I’m going to show them. I respect the Puerto Rican fan base and their passion.
“Like I’ve said at the press conferences, if it wasn’t for the Mexican and Puerto Rican boxing fans, the sport might be dead. Especially in America.
“But I’m not going to give them anything to cheer about. My whole goal is to get the entire crowd to be quiet. I embrace the notion. I’m not intimidated at all.
“This is what I’ve got to go through to get where I want to be, so I’m not going to let the crowd or Miguel Cotto be in my way.”
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org