If you could sum up the career of Miguel Cotto in just one word it would be "tough." He's been through wars—against Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito among others—and has never left a fight without leaving it all in the ring.
At 32, which is not old but a tricky age in boxing, could all these ring wars and his age finally catch up to him?
It's something that Cotto says he isn't worried about:
"I've just put myself through a hard training camp just to be the winner. And it's as it was in my whole career," Cotto said Monday. "I'm here to face Austin [Trout] next Saturday. I'm here to win and I'm not going to rest until I get it."
One thing that can never be questioned about Miguel Cotto is his determination. He’s become boxing's example of the superstar who refuses to die.
Many were writing him off after his devastating knockout defeat at the hands of Antonio Margarito in 2008. Even more jumped off the bandwagon when he suffered another crushing knockout loss to Manny Pacquiao just over a year later.
But Miguel Cotto isn't interested in the critics or those who tell him he can't do something.
He just loves to fight and turned in one of the best performances of his career, albeit in a losing effort, against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. this past May. It was a fight he says gave his career a jump-start and in the eyes of many signaled he was still able to compete at an elite level.
But the question that has yet to be answered is whether Cotto’s performance was the beginning of a resurgence or a last hurrah.
One tremendous advantage Cotto will get will be from the partisan crowd, with few traveling to MSG on a cold Saturday night in December to cheer for Austin Trout.
New York is a second home for the four-time world champion Cotto, and he will have the backing of over 20,000 people cheering his every move. It will be the type of atmosphere his opponent has never seen before, despite his previous fights in Panama and Mexico against popular local fighters.
Who will win Saturday night?
And it's something that can be quite intimidating—many a fighter has lost a fight before stepping into the ring—but also adds tremendous pressure on the hometown guy to put on a good show.
Cotto has been down this road many times before. He’s undefeated in seven fights at MSG, and he’s just going to enjoy the experience.
"I'm just thankful for being here and I'm going to do my best, just for all of the fans and all of the people who are going to be there for me. I don't know what will pass through Austin's mind, but I'm going to enjoy the whole night,” Cotto said.
It’s this experience gap, and the enormity of the moment, that many feel will catch up with Austin Trout when the two meet in the ring on Saturday night.
But to dismiss Trout as another fighter who will wilt under the big lights shows a lack of understanding of the man and what makes him tick.
Many feel that Trout could do himself wonders, win or lose, if he puts in a good performance on this stage. But the 27-year-old doesn’t feel like he’s coming to the ring to defend just his WBA championship, he feels his entire career could be on the line.
“I feel like the powers that be don’t necessarily want me in the boxing game because I feel like I’m a thorn in everybody’s sides. A loss will be the best way for them to get me outta there. So losing is really not an option,” Trout said.
More than anything, he’s young, hungry and determined to show he belongs. Make no mistake about it, he’s coming to win and nothing less will do.
“Even if I still perform to the best of my ability [in a loss]. I think that they won’t let me in. And they didn’t let me in anyway I had to kinda climb through the window.”
The stage is set for a very intriguing matchup. Both fighters feel they have something to prove, and beyond that, feel they’re fighting for their careers.
It’s the classic battle of age and experience against youth and determination.
It could well come down to whomever feels they have more to fight for—and which man feels they have more to lose.
Kevin McRae is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted all quotes were obtained personally