(Austin Trout, left, Miguel Cotto, right; credit: Tom Casino, Showtime)
NEW YORK CITY — Most thought Austin Trout had a dangerous style for Miguel Cotto, and Trout's speed, defense, craft and natural size advantage made him a popular upset pick for some. "Most" were right, and "some" were even righter: Trout went into Cotto's adopted home, Madison Square Garden, Saturday on Showtime and got a deserved decision victory in environs that have not been welcoming to Cotto opponents.
Trout started off smartly, working angles, using his legs and forcing Cotto to expend a lot of energy to find him. Trout boxed brilliantly throughout, in fact, going downstairs, firing combinations up and down. But Cotto did appear to find a rhythm over a few of the middle rounds, dialing in his right cross and firing his strange lead left less like a jab and more like a power punch. When he cornered Trout along the ropes in those rounds, unlike the first couple, he was able to evade Trout's clinches and land some punches inside with his free hand.
But the late rounds turned into the stylistic nightmare that some predicted Trout would visit upon Cotto. In a fight of subtle adjustments — Cotto would sometimes move backward, forcing Trout to lead, while when Cotto was on the attack along the ropes Trout would duck and slip his punches, for starters — Trout was able to keep making adjustments, and was in better condition than Cotto, who appeared in some of the pre-fight hype to have one foot out the door of his boxing career. Or, maybe, Trout's body work did a lot of damage, and Trout was punishing him over the course of the fight in a way that made Cotto's face bust up; perhaps Trout, the first physically big natural junior middleweight Cotto has faced, was doing more damage than he usually does, considering he's not thought to have big power. Maybe it was all of the above.
It was a hard fight to score until those late rounds, with scores ringside and on Twitter all over the place. As Cotto faded and Trout stayed strong, it appeared we might be headed toward an inevitable robbery by the judges. Instead, they were, if anything, more generous to Trout than some (I had it 116-112 for Trout): 117-111 on two cards, 119-109 on the third. It's a weird world when you have to give kudos to the judges who simply get it right, but that's boxing for you.
It was an electric environment, and with a heavy Puerto Rican contingent in the building — albeit somewhat smaller than usual — it was not unexpected that they would boo the decision. Cotto would only say to Showtime's Jim Gray afterward that the crowd's reaction was warranted. If Cotto thought he won that fight, I would like to hear him explain how, other than the unpopularity of the judges' decision with his native peoples.
You wonder what this does to his stardom. I worried that he wasn't focused enough on boxing anymore, and his late round fade points to that. If he truly wants to keep fighting, and behaves as such, I think he could still do so at a high level — he faced a very nettlesome style and fought on relatively even terms for a while. Cotto said afterward in the ring that he would go back to Puerto Rico and consider his next move, per one of the quotes offered by Golden Boy PR.
Trout has been one of boxing's better-kept secrets for a while, but his fights haven't often thrilled. This one, though, was a pretty entertaining performance. And the secret about his talent is now officially out.