NEW YORK – There are some streaks in sports that fans hold dear. Cal Ripken’s streak of 2,632 games played, earning himself the title as baseball’s ultimate iron man. Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 run, cementing his place as one of the all-time greats in heavyweight boxing. Hell, even The Undertaker’s 20-0 run at Wrestlemania merits a mention.
One of boxing’s least publicized but nonetheless impressive streaks was Miguel Cotto’s 7-0 record in Madison Square Garden appearances, keeping The Garden relevant even as it’s title as “The Mecca of Boxing” became less accurate than nostalgic in the last decade. Entering Saturday night’s bout, Austin Trout saw this fight as an opportunity to emerge from the obscurity of Las Cruces, N.M., by ending that streak, and that’s exactly what he did.
Fighting in front of a highly-partisan pro-Cotto crowd waving Puerto Rican flags and blasting reggaeton music, the southpaw boxer-puncher pulled off the biggest win of his career, pounding out a unanimous decision victory over Cotto by the scores of 117-111 on two of the cards, and a too-wide 119-109 on the third, handing three-division titleholder his first loss in New York City.
After a highly-competitive first half of the fight, Trout (26-0, 14 knockouts) dominated the last five rounds, backing up the fading native of Caguas, Puerto Rico with his right jab and straight left cross. Cotto (37-4, 30 KOs), who lost a competitive decision to WBA 154-pound titleholder Floyd Mayweather Jr. in May, has now lost twice in a row for the first time in his career.
Cotto had the fight under control during the middle rounds, but as his left eye began to swell and Trout’s straight lefts and right jabs began to back Cotto up in much the same method that Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao had in their conquests of Cotto, Trout’s confidence began to swell, too.
“Fighting here, I was never comfortable because you never know what the judges are thinking,” said Trout’s trainer Louie Burke. “I thought we were winning, but there were times where Cotto had a good flurry and I didn’t know if those were enough to win him the round or not.”
Still, Cotto wasn’t ready to concede defeat after the fight.
“If I agree or not, it doesn’t matter. You can ask the crowd, they’re gonna tell you,” the 32-year-old veteran told Showtime post-fight interviewer Jim Gray when asked what he thought of the decision.
For Cotto, who has defeated the likes of Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito and Paulie Malignaggi during a pro career that will likely end in enshrinement in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, his run at the top rungs of the boxing ladder may be near.
Trout took the podium first at the post-fight press conference, dressed immaculately in a grey oxford shirt and dark gray jacket.
“I’m numb, I don’t feel anything right now,” Trout said, when asked how he was feeling at the moment. “It’s gonna hit me probably tomorrow, or three days from now. Who knows?”
The 27-year-old Trout, who holds what the WBA calls its “regular” title, said he wants to unify all of the 154-pound title belts, beginning with WBC titleholder Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who was at ringside to scout Cotto as a possible future opponent.
“’Canelo’ should be next,” said Trout, who won the “regular” belt with a victory over Alvarez’s older brother Rigoberto. “He wants to fight May 5. I’d even take a fight in February, then come back in May.”
Cotto, dressed in a pink shirt and light brown coat that contrasted with the heavy, flesh-colored bruising on his face, was more open at the press conference.
“I’m happy, I’m just a little disappointed with the decision. I have to continue, accept it and move forward,” said Cotto, who promoted the show under his company Miguel Cotto Promotions alongside Golden Boy Promotions and Greg Cohen Promotions.
Cotto said he wants to spend the holidays with his family and “take this time just to think. I’m not finished yet, still with boxing on my mind. I just want to rest with my family the rest of the year.”
When asked about the scorecards, Cotto said: “I think it’s an appreciation sport, judges can see the fight and give the fight to whoever they want. 119-109, 117-111 is too far (from) what the people (saw) and what I (brought) into the ring.
“I’m very grateful for all the support I get from New York and for that I always bring my best.”
Despite the loss, Golden Boy President Richard Schaefer didn’t completely close the door on Cotto-Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who skipped the post-fight press conference.
“There’s still a possibility that we could see a Canelo-Cotto fight,” said Schaefer. “Trout is another possibility. Trout was not a very well known name and we were pleased with the turnout. If you can attract over 13,000 to a venue in December before the holidays, that just shows the strength of Miguel Cotto’s fan base.”
If Trout isn’t able to secure the bout with Alvarez, there’s an alternative that he sounds willing to accept.
“If there’s any doubt whether I won or not, I’d love to do it again if we need to,” said Trout.
Photos / Naoki Fukuda
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.