Pundits reacted with surprise when they learned that Miguel Cotto, the Puerto Rican future Hall of Famer and a top economic driver in the sport, announced he would fight New Mexico junior middleweight Austin "No Doubt" Trout, who holds the WBA crown.
"I was just as surprised as you were," said Trout, 26, who was born in El Paso, Texas, and moved with family to New Mexico soon after.
Trout is a lefty, slick, someone who can make a foe look bad, because he realizes his limitations. Trout (25-0, 14 KOs) isn't blessed with anvil hands, so he sticks and moves and pays attention to defense, and there are more than a few smart analysts who think he could be trouble for Cotto when they glove up at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 1.
Trout surely thinks he will make Cotto, 31, coming off a solid showing in a UD12 loss to Floyd Mayweather on May 5, regret picking the undefeated pug as a dance partner. "I know I will beat Cotto, without a doubt," he told me. "If I do what I do best, I'm going to shut Cotto out."
No, Trout said, he won't be put off by a full house of Nuyoricans hollering for their guy. He said he's used to fighting as the underdog on the other guys' turf. "I will be the underdog, the hated one," he said. "I've been in hostile territory, in Mexico three or four times, and I came out victorious."
Trout gave super-adviser Al Haymon props for getting him this date. "He was the key to unlocking this box," said the fighter, who has had difficulty tempting foes to try and snag his belt. "I didn't think I'd get this fight. Al said, 'I got something big in the works,' and I was thinking something a bit smaller, like Alfredo Angulo or John Molina."
So does Trout have a message for those fans who will pack the Garden and try to help Cotto get the W? "Let New York know I'm coming," he said. "I know the passion of Puerto Rican fight fans; boxing needs more passion like that."
And if he meets resistance, Trout can know there will at least be a handful of pro-Trout rooters in the building. His mother's parents live in Sheepshead Bay, and some cousins live on Long Island.
"Hopefully the fans will embrace me as one of their own after I beat their own," he said.