Austin Trout has passed the first major test of his boxing career. By upsetting Miguel Cotto to retain his WBA light middleweight title in New York on Saturday night, the American rising star should open up bigger opportunities for himself moving forward.
When you consider Cotto's last two losses came against Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., Trout is putting himself in some pretty elite company. It's by far the most important victory of his career at this point.
The 27-year-old southpaw has been working his way up the ranks for quite some time now. He picked up his first professional victory over Justo Almazan back in 2005 and has tallied 25 more wins in a row since.
An undefeated streak like that will always get a boxer noticed, but it takes a marquee victory in order to take his popularity to another level. Beating Cotto should accomplish that for Trout, who originally beat Rigoberto Alvarez to win the light middleweight title.
There were questions entering the fight about how Trout would handle the moment. After all, it's common for fighters to suffer a letdown when placed in a high-pressure situation like he was in front of a Madison Square Garden crowd.
Given Cotto's track record and experience in those type of bouts, it's no surprise he was the favorite. But Trout didn't back down from the spotlight, fought within himself and it resulted in a victory that will surely be noticed by the boxing world.
By proving he could go toe-to-toe with one of the most well-known boxers in the world right now, he showed that his undefeated record isn't a fluke even though the level of competition had been relatively low.
It's just the beginning, however. He must capitalize on the win by setting up another big fight against a top competitor in the light middleweight division. He can't afford to take on another subpar opponent and get lost in the shuffle again.
Now that he's beaten Cotto and illustrated his ability to perform in front of a wide audience, the next couple of fights are crucial. Fans are going to start paying closer attention. A couple of more big wins and the Trout bandwagon will start to fill up.
In other words, he's taken one big step. But there's a lot of work left to do for the American.