Trout seeks breakout performance

NEW YORK -- If you are not familiar with Austin Trout, you are not alone, but he is aiming to change that in a big way.

"I don't want to be anonymous anymore," Trout said this week.

Although Trout owns a junior middleweight world title, it has brought him very little recognition among boxing fans even though he had a strong amateur background -- he was 2004 U.S. Olympic alternate -- and has made two defenses.

But he can put himself on the map by winning defense No. 3, which will come in, by far, his most significant fight when he faces former three-division, four-time titleholder Miguel Cotto, one of boxing's biggest stars, on Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET/PT) at Madison Square Garden.

Trout, a 27-year-old southpaw from Las Cruces, N.M., who goes by the nickname "No Doubt," has an uphill battle to be sure.

"Miguel Cotto is the best fighter I've ever faced and that's no secret, but I've put in the hard work now so that way [Saturday] can be easier," Trout said.

Puerto Rico's Cotto, 32, is a probable Hall of Famer and fighting on essentially home turf because he is beloved by New York's large Puerto Rican community, which has made him the city's biggest boxing attraction in years. He has made Madison Square Garden his second home, going 7-0 there in some of the biggest fights of his career, including wins against Antonio Margarito in their rematch last December, Shane Mosley, Zab Judah and Paulie Malignaggi.

Trout, who is not a big puncher but has strong defense with slick moves, knows he is about to enter the lion's den. His goal?

"My goal on Saturday is to get the crowd quiet. I don't want to give them anything to cheer for," he said. "I feel great. I feel like this is my time. I have wanted this fight for years. This was preordained and I don't think God brought me here to fail."

On the undercard of the Showtime tripleheader, Puerto Rican featherweight prospect Jayson Velez (19-0, 14 KOs) faces Mexico's Salvador Sanchez II (30-4-3, 18 KOs), the nephew of the late featherweight champion and Hall of Famer Salvador Sanchez; and Brooklyn, N.Y., middleweight Daniel Jacobs (23-1, 20 KOs), the 2009 ESPN.com prospect of the year who will be fighting for the second time since nearly dying from cancer, will face Cleveland's Chris Fitzpatrick (15-2, 6 KOs).

Cotto lost his version of the 154-pound title in May when he dropped a competitive unanimous decision to Floyd Mayweather Jr. But because of Cotto's star power, even off a loss he could have picked just about anyone to fight, and even turned down the opportunity for a rematch with Manny Pacquiao, who took his welterweight title in a 12th-round knockout in 2009. Instead, Cotto picked Trout, a surprising decision to many because he is a dangerous opponent who brings little name recognition and it was for a lot less money than the Pacquiao fight.

"Everybody who knows Miguel Cotto knows Miguel Cotto doesn't pick easy fights, or easy opponents," Cotto said. "Austin was the next in line. I'm ready for him and we're just going to see what happens."

Trout (25-0, 14 KOs) was as surprised as anyone that Cotto (37-3, 30 KOs) agreed to fight him. In June, Trout easily outpointed Delvin Rodriguez on a Showtime undercard. Trout was very defensive and it was a dreadful fight. It was hard to see him landing a big fight coming off that performance. But Trout had also recently signed with powerful adviser Al Haymon, who worked his magic, and suddenly Trout had the opportunity of a lifetime.

"I was shocked that [Cotto] chose a fighter like me, because a lot of times I've been known as high risk, low reward, even with the belt," Trout said. "So I figured if I can't get these guys to fight me with the belt then what do I have to do, who do I have to beat to get these names going? And lo and behold, [promoter] Greg Cohen and Al Haymon made the Miguel Cotto fight happen, and I can't be more appreciative for it."

When Cohen called Trout to tell him that he had gotten the fight he did not believe him.

"Miguel Cotto could fight anyone and the fact that he sought out a young, hungry and talented world champion in Austin Trout speaks volumes of his character and competitive spirit," Cohen said.

"Once the fight was confirmed, it took a while to sink in," said Trout, who has three children and is engaged to be married.

It has now sunk in and he is appreciative of Cotto's willingness to face him.

"Miguel Cotto is doing what other champions in this weight class won't do by fighting me. I thank him for this opportunity," Trout said. "All we wanted was a chance. We had to go above and beyond, under the radar for this chance. I plan on making history. Not because I made Miguel Cotto a five-time world champion, but because I will be the only person to beat Miguel Cotto in New York.

"This fight is allowing all my dreams to come true. I am crossing a lot off of my bucket list with this one. After Saturday night, I'm either going to become a big star or it could stop here."

Whatever happens in the fight, one thing is likely: Trout will not be unnerved fighting in front of a boisterous and hostile crowd. He's been there, done that.

In 2009, he went to Panama and outpointed Panama-based Nilson Julio Tapia. Two fights later, Trout got his shot at a vacant world title in February 2011, which took him to Guadalajara, Mexico, the hometown of his opponent Rigoberto Alvarez, the older brother of fellow 154-pound titleholder Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. Trout boxed circles around the older Alvarez and won a lopsided decision.

For his first title defense, Trout returned to Mexico to face another Mexican fighter, longtime contender David Lopez. Trout won another lopsided decision.
He believes his experience of fighting on enemy territory will help him be ready for what he will face Saturday.

"My past experiences have not been on this type of level, by far, but if practice makes perfect this is not my first time doing it, so I feel like I'll be pretty comfortable being in the hostile territory," Trout said. "Really, the crowd can only do one thing, and that's to make noise. They can't help him get up, they can't help him punch harder, they can't help him punch faster. I'm expecting and I'm preparing for Miguel to be at his absolute best anyway, so it's not like they can make him better than his best. And I've done all the preparation now, and really the only thing I'm focused on is Miguel Cotto in that ring.

"When I was walking to the ring [in Panama and Mexico] my whole goal was to shut the crowd out. Going to the ring you get people likely throwing things at you, cursing at you, and things like that. It's me against the world, and I'm going to show them. I respect the Puerto Rican fan base and for their passion. I said at the press conference that if it wasn't for them or the Mexican fans that boxing might be dead, especially in America. So as a fan, I'm glad they're keeping it alive, but I'm not going to give them anything to cheer about. My whole goal is to get the Garden absolutely quiet."

Cotto's reaction to Trout's touting his experiences in Panama and Mexico? Extremely unimpressed.

"He said he'd been in Panama fighting with a Panamanian guy, he was in Mexico fighting with a Mexican guy, but Saturday he's going to be in New York in Madison Square Garden fighting with Miguel Cotto," Cotto said. "That's my home, and I know nothing is going to be equal or the same as he has done before.

"That's a special venue, that's a special night for me, and I know he going to figure it out as soon as he get in there."