Austin Trout has had a taste of the big fights, and he wants it again, which is what makes his fight with interim junior middleweight titlist Erislandy Lara on Saturday so imperative.
"I'm absolutely excited to get in the fight," Trout said. "I really wanted to fight as soon as I could. I wasn't injured, I wasn't necessarily beat up, but I had to wait for December. So, all that in value then builds up, and I'm ready to take it out on Lara.
"Somebody has got to get rid of this guy, and I'm happy to be the one to do it. I feel like I'm the only one that can do it, so it's really honorable to be able to get in there and get my belt back at the same time."
Last December, Miguel Cotto selected Trout as an opponent because Cotto wanted a shot at his junior middleweight title. Trout was all too happy to give him the opportunity, went to Cotto's house at Madison Square Garden in New York and outpointed the Puerto Rican star with relative ease. It was the victory that put Trout on the map, even though he had held a world title since early 2011.
Coming off such an impressive victory, Trout got another really big fight when he was tapped by Canelo Alvarez to fight him in a 154-pound unification match in April.
In front of about 40,000 people at the sold-out Alamodome in San Antonio, where Alvarez was the overwhelming crowd favorite, Trout got knocked down in the seventh round of an otherwise highly competitive fight and lost a unanimous decision.
Now Trout is poised to challenge fellow southpaw technician Lara for his interim belt Saturday night (Showtime, 8 ET) at the Barclays Center in New York on the undercard of the all-Brooklyn showdown between former welterweight and junior welterweight titleholders Zab Judah and Paulie Malignaggi.
Trout would have liked to get back in the ring sooner after losing to Alvarez, but he had a messy split with promoter Greg Cohen. After litigation, the specifics of which Trout declined to go into, he was finally free to fight again and is now working with Golden Boy, although he isn't signed to the company.
"It was hard to not know when you're going to be able to work again," Trout said. "I fell out of work. I felt like I was waiting for my unemployment check, which was not coming any time soon. I'm very happy and proud to say that I'm not with Greg Cohen Promotions. It was the best thing that could happen to my career as this year goes, and I'm just happy to put that all behind me and move forward.
"I'm just happy that it's over. … I'm ready to fight, and that's awesome motivation to whip Lara's ass."
After the loss in April, Trout (26-1, 14 KOs), 28, of Las Cruces, N.M., watched as Alvarez moved on to the fight every boxer wants -- a big-money showdown with pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. Trout watched as Mayweather dominated in a one-sided fight, all the while thinking that, had he been in the ring with Mayweather, he would have fared a lot better than Alvarez.
"Most definitely," Trout said. "Canelo had his best fight in his life when he fought against me, and, in my opinion, I'd give myself maybe a seven or eight [out of 10]. It was definitely not my best, and then an off night for him [against Mayweather]. And that was the No. 1 thing I thought, like, 'Come on, Canelo, you're making us both look bad.' And, two, 'You should have just let me go ahead and get that fight because I sure would have put up a better fight than that.'"
Cotto, whom Trout beat fairly easily, is deciding between two huge money fights, a $10 million-plus offer to fight Alvarez in March or a mid-seven-figures fight against middleweight world champion Sergio Martinez in June.
"I use that as motivation," Trout said. "It's not necessarily the best fighting the best, except the fight with me and Lara fighting each other. But it's more -- I think, really, that we're fighting each other because nobody else wants to fight us. But you know me, I'll take all comers.
"It's the golden rule: You punch, that makes the rule. I can't be bitter about [the big fights for Cotto and Alvarez] because that's something I don't have control over. I've just got to do what I can do with opportunities that come my way, and that's really why I'm going to make the most of this opportunity that's presented itself."
Trout isn't getting an easy opponent in Lara (18-1-2, 12 KOs), a 30-year-old former Cuban amateur standout living and training in Houston. In fact, it's a very evenly matched fight.
Lara has faced several quality opponents, and his loss and two draws were all controversial. There were debatable draws with Carlos Molina (who later won a world title) in 2011 and Vanes Martirosyan in a 2012 title eliminator. Lara's majority decision loss to Paul Williams in 2011 was so controversial that, in an unprecedented move, the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board suspended all three judges for their questionable scorecards.
Lara is coming off the most notable victory of his career, a 10th-round stoppage of Alfredo Angulo in June in an action-packed fight in which Lara got dropped twice but got up to win the vacant interim belt.
"This is a very meaningful matchup in this division -- a division, I might add, which is loaded with a lot of good names out there," said Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer.
As good as Trout and Lara both are, Lara has been in no mood to give Trout any credit.
"Austin Trout is an OK fighter," Lara said through a translator. "There's nothing special about him. I feel that he's on his way out. He had his time, and I'm going to prove that. And as far as having a heart, let's see in the ring. I'll show him in the ring who has a heart or not, and we'll decide then.
"The big difference between Paul Williams and Austin Trout is that Paul Williams has balls. He was a fighter that would attack you and he was aggressive and he would come at you, and he knew how to box, as well. With Austin Trout, he's just a guy that runs."
Trout said he won't run and never has.
"Have you ever seen me run in a fight, as opposed to Erislandy Lara? That's all he does in the ring, so, I mean, he's just talking," Trout said. "I'm not a runner. I box, but I don't run. And I like to fight, which you can't say about him. If you watch my fight, you'll see, I don't run."
In fact, Trout said, Lara is the fighter who is reluctant to engage, citing his brawl with Angulo.
"That war was brought by Angulo. Lara didn't want any part of that war. He was in a war because he had to survive. I think it's hilarious that he says I'm a runner. That's his M.O. He ran from Cuba; he runs in the fight; he's the runner of boxing. So, the title fight will be in my favor.
"Beating him would definitely put my stake [in] as the best in the 154-pound division. I had a little setback in April, and I think Lara's the type of name and opponent that puts me right back into the running for the best."