Prevailing wisdom said Austin Trout would be hard-pressed to win a decision over Miguel Cotto in the hostile confines of Madison Square Garden. Apotheosized by the devoted legion who churn turnstiles in support of Puerto Rico’s most recent fighting idol, Cotto could expect to complement his fistic repertoire with a legitimate home-field advantage. Trout accepted the challenge and the role of challenger (he was introduced first despite putting his WBA chewed leather cummerbund on the line), and with an impressive blend of brains and brawn, reduced a tall order to a simple task, winning a lopsided unanimous decision by scores of 119-109 and 117-111 (twice).
Exploiting a five-inch reach advantage and superior speed, Trout, Las Cruces, New Mexico, began the fight looking to establish a rhythm with his jab. For much of the first two rounds, Trout successfully kept Cotto at the end of his punches, while remaining out of his stocky, short-armed opponent’s range. Despite adopting the role of boxer more frequently as he moved up in weight, Cotto, Caguas, Puerto Rico, came out of his corner with an aggression reminiscent of his sanguinary past. Yet it was Cotto who ate the heavier leather through the opening three rounds. Trout was scoring with a sharp right jab and a straight left that he targeted at Cotto’s chin and belly.
The third round saw Cotto find success in closing the distance, and the crowd readied to erupt if only their man could land something substantial. But Trout, who fought all twelve rounds with the unflappability that was once Cotto’s trademark, refused to be cornered, bullied, or undone. With a frustrating dynamic of upper body movement, elusive feet, and muscle in the trenches, Trout avoided being struck cleanly in combination, and gave better than he got. Never a pernicious puncher at junior middleweight, Cotto managed to bury home his share of blows, but they made no mischief with his foe’s features, and it was self-reprimand, not pain, that distorted Trout’s face when a fist slammed into it.
In the sixth round, Cotto, 153 3/4, reverted to boxing, looking to draw the slippery Trout to him. This change in tactic seemed to be a sign of fatigue. Considering the pressure Cotto applied in the first half of the fight, it was reasonable to expect him to look to conserve energy. Boxing on his toes, Cotto was able to land some eye-catching punches on Trout. The success was short-lived however, and Trout, 154, used the next two rounds to reestablish control of the fight. Even if it failed to land, Trout’s jab kept Cotto off rhythm, while his right hook and uppercut drummed a beat upside the tiring Cotto’s skull.
Rounds nine through twelve saw Trout willingly engage in exchanges, imposing his strength and impressive conditioning, and looking to overcome any possible shenanigans on the scorecards with insurmountable evidence of his dominance. Conversely, Cotto spent long periods languishing beyond reach, fatigue widening the trajectory of his punches, his zest for combat seemingly waning en route to the inevitable. His face began to bear not just the abrasions of the night, but of a career, and his movements acquired the lumbering crapulence of a man overfed with a career’s worth of punishment. The decision was academic.
What the future holds for Trout, 26-0 (14), is unclear. In an endearing move, he called out Golden Boy Promotions’ mollycoddle Saul Alvarez, who was seated ringside. Alas, Alvarez had left his seat before Trout’s challenge could find his ears. Too bad. Shaming him might be the only way to get Alvarez, and specifically those who handle his career, into choosing an opponent who is neither undersized nor clapped-out. Regardless of who he faces next, Trout would be wise to capitalize on the accolades that accompany a fighter’s first trophy kill, and take measures to stay in the sport’s collective consciousness. Though burdened with Marvin Hagler’s famous three strikes, Trout is not menacing enough to be avoided. If he can build a bit of a following, especially in New Mexico, his future could be bright. The same cannot be said of Cotto.
In the eyes of the judges, Cotto, 37-4 (30), has failed to win more than three rounds in either of his last two fights. Yes, his last bout was a loss to Floyd Mayweather, Jr., but in falling so easily to Trout the agruments for his rejuvenation must be trashed. Cotto’s reputation exceeds his ability, and equilibrium between the two is merely a sound beating away. He was non-committal about his future and left thousands of fans disappointed by not enduring Jim Gray’s badgering long enough to bid farewell. Perhaps he has tired of his profession and will return to Puerto Rico, where only the Coquis will have his ears ringing. More likely he will be cannibalized by Alvarez sometime next year. Whatever he decides to do, in an age of asterisks depreciating accomplishment, Cotto has no such blemish. He fought the best of his era, and earned his success. That is legacy enough, one would think.
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