From 1981 to 1984, junior lightweight Louie Burke ran up a professional record of 18-0, including a couple of victories over a popular TV fighter named Freddie Roach -- the second of which appeared on the undercard of a bout between two decent fighters called Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran. Then Burke dropped a close and controversial decision to Charlie Brown, was stopped by Hector Camacho and, after collapsing from dehydration in his next bout, decided he was done.
But although he left the ring, he didn't leave the sport. Boxing was in his blood -- his father and brother boxed, too -- and after hanging up the gloves, he trained fighters out of the PAL Gym in Las Cruces, N.M. Had he won his final fight, the one in which he collapsed, Burke would have been in line for a title tilt against Julio Cesar Chavez. But while his own shot at world title success didn't come as a fighter, it has arrived as a trainer, courtesy of junior middleweight Austin Trout, who has looked to Burke for training and guidance from the day that he walked into the gym with his mother as a 10-year-old boy.
The soft-spoken Trout keeps a small, tight circle of people around him, and it's clear that the equally soft-spoken Burke thinks the world of his charge.
"Austin's a one-in-a-million guy," he told ESPN.com. "He's very humble, he's a great athlete, he has a great work ethic. He trains hard. He has a very strong mental ability. His nickname fits him perfectly: No Doubt. When he puts his mind to something, he strives as hard as he can to achieve that goal."
The goal that matters more than any other right now, of course, is defeating Canelo Alvarez in San Antonio's Alamodome on Saturday. It's a big-time matchup that Trout earned by defeating Miguel Cotto in December, but for all the talk of similarity in styles between Trout's last opponent and his next one, Burke says he is focusing as much on the differences between the two.
"Canelo's a little bit more explosive, he's more of a counterpuncher; I think maybe he's going to try and box a little bit," he said after Thursday's final prefight press conference. "He's got better boxing skills than people give him credit for. Miguel was shorter, he had to get inside, he had to be a little bit more aggressive. I think with Canelo we're going to have to bait him a little bit more into running in to Austin's punches."
None of which is to say that Team Trout isn't prepared for the possibility that Alvarez will look to impose himself early, exerting pressure and testing Trout's resolve. Burke is happy to acknowledge that Canelo has more arrows in his quiver than is normally recognized; it's just that he figures his man has still more.
"We have prepared for several different scenarios, because we don't know what he's going to do exactly," he said. "So we've prepared as best we can, and we'll make our adjustments as we need to. But Austin's the more versatile guy, absolutely."
Burke gives credit to Alvarez for forcing the issue and insisting that his promoters make the fight with Trout. As an old-school guy who fought underneath two of the greatest fighters of arguably boxing's greatest era, he naturally hopes it's a harbinger of things to come.
"I think that's something that boxing's lacked for a long time," he said. "You get these promoters who want to protect their fighters, and it does nothing but hurt boxing. Austin wants to take it back to the years when people recognized one champion in each weight division. Right now, it's gotten so watered down that nobody knows who the champions are, even people involved with boxing. This is going to help clarify that and help bring boxing back to the popularity it enjoyed in the golden era."