NEW YORK – Much has been made about Miguel Cotto – a four-time former titleholder in three divisions and one of the sport’s biggest stars – and his perceived home court advantage going into Saturday’s fight at Madison Square Garden.
Cotto (37-3, 30 knockouts), of Caguas, Puerto Rico, will be vying for the WBA junior middleweight title held by Austin Trout (25-0, 14 KOs), of Las Cruces, New Mexico, in front of what is sure to be a heavily pro-Cotto crowd.
Cotto’s popularity in The Big Apple is so that at Wednesday afternoon’s final press conference, MSG Executive Vice President of Sports Bookings Joel Fisher handed Cotto a commemorative “Golden Ticket” for selling over 100,000 tickets in his eight appearances at “The Mecca of Boxing.” Cotto has gone 7-0 in those fights.
Trout, though undefeated, isn’t as celebrated in America, having fought many of his signature wins in other countries like Mexico, Panama and Canada. Still, despite having never previously competed in New York or the Northeast region for that matter, Trout’s familial ties give him a sense of home.
“I always say, I’m more New York than Miguel Cotto is,” said Trout, whose mother and grandmother were both Brooklyn natives, and whose father was born in Harlem. “I’ve been coming back and forth to New York since I was a little boy. I’m not new to the city.”
Trout, who despite being the incumbent titleholder is the “B-side” on a card promoted by Miguel Cotto Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions in association with Trout’s promoter Greg Cohen Promotions. He dismisses thoughts of being intimidated by fighting in front of a “hostile” pro-Cotto crowd. He has seen far worse.
“Everybody’s been very professional,” said Trout of working with the Cotto people. “In the David Lopez fight that was not the case.”
Trout is referring to his first title defense at the Auditorio Miguel Barragan in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Trout’s trainer Louie Burke claims that promoter HG Boxing gave them the run-around with the venue, hinting at sea level locations such as Cozumel and Acapulco before announcing San Luis Potosi, which at over 6,000 feet in elevation, is one of the highest points in Mexico.
“We got to the airport, and everyone has their ticket except Austin,” said Burke. “We get to the hotel, no rooms, so we’re sitting in the lobby for hours.”
Remembers Trout: “They tried to mess our rooms up. We were just sitting here for hours waiting to get our rooms situated. I said, Well I gotta burn calories anyways, I’ll go for a walk.”
Burke said that when they finally arrived at the venue for fight night, the ring was just 16½ feet from ring rope to ring rope, a foot and a half smaller than the 18-foot minimum ring size that is mandated by WBA regulations. A smaller ring would be to the detriment of Trout, considered more the boxer, and would benefit the more aggressive Lopez.
“We marked it off with tape measure. He was pulling the tape to the ring apron but it’s supposed to be from rope to rope,” said Burke. “He got a little bit upset.”
Continued Burke: “We were very close to packing up and leaving. The [promoter] called the Federales in front of the dressing room, they told us if we make an attempt to leave, they were gonna throw us in jail. We were ready, we were determined to walk out.”
An email to Garcia requesting comment was not returned by time of publish.
Just as Team Trout seemed intent on swimming upstream on fight night, it was Trout that spoke up and made the final decision. “I didn’t really care,” said Trout. “The ring is too small? So what, he can’t run. That’s how I looked at it.
“I said, ‘After we whooped David’s ass, let’s get the hell up out of here.’ They really gonna be mad after that.”
Trout wound up defeating Lopez that night, dropping him in the 11th round to solidify a wide unanimous decision victory. Trout has since won two more title defenses over Frank LoPorto (TKO 6) and Delvin Rodriguez (unanimous decision), both of which were televised by Showtime.
Burke admits that the Rodriguez fight, which took place at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., wasn’t Trout’s best performance to date, and wonders if having a pro-Trout crowd didn’t throw him for a loop.
“We welcome hostility,” said Burke. “It seems like it has motivated Austin throughout his career. We had a nice little following in L.A. and it wasn’t his best performance. I think we were lacking the boos and jeers, and we expect them to be back in full force on Saturday.”
It’s hard to understate what a win over Cotto would do for Trout’s career. Cotto, though coming off a unanimous decision loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in May, has a high enough stock to lift Trout into the sport’s upper stratosphere with a convincing victory. Those are dreams that Trout strive for.
“We’re not going to be running, we’re going to give him angles,” said Trout on his tactics for the fight. “I want to shut the crowd down early, and I feel if I can get in his head early, he tends to fall apart a bit when things aren’t going his way. Look for Cotto turning southpaw against me.”
Continued Trout: “All my dreams come down to this fight. I feel it’s either gonna promote my dreams and carry them further or it could stop here. I think it’s all riding on this. I have to win, and I do feel I can be a superstar like Cotto, if not better. He’s done a great job with his time but I’m more of a people person. I’m the type that will crowd-surf if they let me.”
Photo / Rich Kane – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel and can be reached at email@example.com. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.