Last Friday night, January 25, ESPN's Friday Night Fights broadcast live from the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York. WBA junior middleweight champion Austin Trout (26-0, 14 KOs) was on hand for the show and to meet with the gathered boxing media afterward.
Not even two months removed from the biggest win of his career, a unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto last December 1, Trout is now working hard to catch his name recognition up to his resume. It's a tough position that many championship fighters find themselves in on the way up.
After the way he did Cotto in the Garden, Trout is established as a dangerous opponent for pretty much anybody. Cotto might not be quite what he once was, but he's still Cotto. He fought Trout just six months removed from winning rounds against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Fact is, Cotto won more rounds with the judges against Money than he did against Trout.
But Trout has yet to build up the kind of fan following that makes him financially worth the risk that he represents in the ring. For that reason, it's no sure bet that he'll get the fights he deserves.
For example, the one fight that makes the most sense right now in the 154-pound division is clear to anybody who has been paying attention: Austin Trout and Saul Alvarez, with the winner to fight Mayweather in the fall. If that happens, we end 2013 knowing with no question who the No. 1 guy is at 154.
Going into last December, Saul Alvarez and Miguel Cotto looked like a sure bet for Cinco de Mayo in 2013. It still might end up happening, and if it does, the numbers will still be huge.
But the hardcore fans will all be saying, "Yeah, but what about Trout?"
Naturally enough, Saul Alvarez was the first name asked about when Austin Trout addressed the post-card press conference in Verona last Friday. One questioner asked if Trout thought maybe Canelo "might need a heart transport."
Trout took the high road in his reply, while still keeping everything real:
Saul Alvarez, in my opinion, I think he'd fight me. He's a fighter, and I know a fighter will fight anybody. So when I say Canelo is ducking me, I mean I think Papa De La Hoya and [Golden Boy CEO Richard] Schaefer are ducking me...I'm not going to sit around waiting for him, but maybe they'll let him out of the yard to play.
I spoke to Trout a few minutes one-on-one after the press conference, and he was clearly feeling positive about his career, regardless of probably being on the outside of the biggest current fights.
When I asked him about other potential opponents, Trout was quick to respond: "Ishe Smith and Cornelius Bundrage are about to fight for the IBF belt. I want the winner."
Trout also mentioned Russian WBO title holder Zaurbek Baysangurov as a fight he would be interested in:
He's got a title, so I want it. To me, that should be the goal. First to win a title, then to unify them.
Of course, like every hungry young champion from 140 to 160 pounds, there is one name that really matters. When I asked Trout what other fights intrigued him, he paused for a second and smiled a little bit.
"Well, if Floyd Mayweather wanted to give me a fight, I'd definitely take it."
Trout also told me a rematch with Miguel Cotto was a possibility he would entertain.
I observed that it sounded like Trout planned to continue making junior middleweight his home for the immediate future.
"Definitely," he said. "There's too much talent there to walk away from all the fights."