Austin Trout dominated the stalwart Miguel Cotto Saturday night at Madison Square Garden en route to a 12-round unanimous decision.
Now he is ready for boxing's big names.
Cotto had been a heavy favourite against Trout after his impressive performance against Floyd Mayweather and his destruction of Antonio Margarito. Cotto has been a pay-per-view star for years, and this fight was meant to be a precursor for a blockbuster showdown with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.
The undefeated Trout changed the boxing landscape dramatically.
"No Doubt" Trout capitalized on his height and reach advantage. He fought well at a distance, scored with his jab and demonstrated impressive hand speed. On the inside, he proved to be the stronger fighter and hurt Cotto in close.
Austin also used ring generalship to dictate the pace of the fight. He changed his tactics throughout the contest to keep Cotto uncomfortable. He fought well off his back foot, scored from range and pressured well, while using excellent defense to avoid feeling Cotto's powerful shots.
He threw more total punches than Cotto and landed the cleaner, more effective shots. Trout landed 238 of 779 total punches at 31 percent; conversely, Cotto landed 183 of 628 at 29 percent.
Trout won the jab contest by landing 46 of 349 to the Puerto Rican's 29 of 175. In conjunction with his defense and footwork, Trout's jab helped him control the fight as he scored well on the outside and orchestrated where the fight took place.
Trout also won in power punches, which Cotto was expected to win in compensation for his size and reach disadvantage. Trout landed 192 of 430 power punches to Cotto's 154 of 453.
By the end, Cotto's face was red and marked.
The undefeated champion defended his title and raised interesting questions about upcoming superfights. The 27-year-old, WBA 154-pound champion poses a complicated problem to many of the pound-for-pound elite.
He is bigger, younger and stronger than Pacquiao and Mayweather. He may be at a disadvantage in speed but not significantly so. His ability to keep the fight at range with his quick, long, powerful jab would allow him a chance at upsetting these two icons.
After the win, in nonsensical Spanish, he called out boxing's future: "Quiero. Tu. Quiero."
His challenge to Alvarez does not have any meaning in Spanish, but a clash between the two champions would make perfect sense and plenty of dollars. A bout with WBC champion "Canelo" would clarify the 154-pound picture and segue nicely into superfights with Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.
These two belt-holders match up well, and this would be a marketable fight that is logical, lucrative and exciting.
The hottest thing out of Mexico since jalapenos is undefeated, charismatic, immensely popular and talented. At 5'9" and with a reach of 71 inches, he does not have the height disparity that Cotto faced. (Trout is 5'9" and has a reach of 72 inches.)
Alvarez's sterling record of 41-0 with 30 knockouts has made believers of his doubters, but a bout with Trout would be his biggest test to date.
This would help prove to the world that the carefully brought-along 22-year-old Mexican superstar is ready to swim with the big fishes and fight the best. This encounter serves both champions well. A respectable performance would keep them in the picture for superfights.
A loss by Trout would not eliminate him from future marquee fights—rather, the positive exposure would enhance his limited fanbase. Ironically, a loss to Alvarez might make it easier for the big names to accept his challenge.
Even without the Alvarez title unification contest, Trout is an excellent option for the big names in boxing.
As rumours circulate that Pacquiao wants to fight Brandon Rios in April 2013, a Trout fight makes far more sense. Rios just moved up from 135 after a poor final performance against Richard Abril and has since only fought at 140 once. While his lone win was epic and thrilling, it does not qualify him to fight boxing's biggest star.
A win over "No Doubt" offers far more credibility and enhances Pacquaio's legacy infinitely more than a Rios win.
Who should be next for Trout?
Floyd Mayweather is still not scheduled to fight anyone in 2013. A match with Austin Trout would help show "Money's" detractors that he is not afraid of southpaws and facing bigger, stronger opponents. Many claim that Mayweather does not want to face Manny and Sergio Martinez because of their unorthodox stance. They also claim he had avoided Antonio Margarito and Paul Williams because of their size.
A definitive victory over Trout would assuage those rumblings once and for all.
Sergio Martinez is fighting unheralded Martin Murray in April 2013. This is no way for the 37-year-old to cement a legitimate legacy. Martinez deserves a chance to prove his greatness to the world. He is slick, athletic, fast and exciting to watch. The middleweight champion has bigger fish to fry at 154, and Trout would be a great place to start.
If Martinez is sincere in his desire to get blockbuster bouts, he should take a risk on Trout.
At 27 years old, Austin Trout and his undefeated record of 26-0 are sitting in an excellent position. There are many routes to the fame and fortune he has earned. An initial battle with "Canelo" that produces a fan-friendly result will open the doors to superfights in boxing.
Congrats to him, and the boxing world just got a little bit brighter. Here is a Spanish tip to help him get going: "Canelo, con todo el respeto del mundo, quiero pelear contigo."