December 16th, 2012 By Frances MartelNew York, NY- In politics, we define cultural shifts by game changing moments—the minute Theodore Roosevelt decided to found the Bull Moose Party; Ronald Reagan refusing to exploit Walter Mondale’s “youth and inexperience;” President Obama’s race speech. Boxing has these moments, too—and used to have them with far greater frequency. The fact that we have not had one since Lennox Lewis (41-2-1, 32 KOs) fought Vitali Klitschko (45-2, 41 KOs) tells you all you need to know about the so-called “death” of boxing. Rumors of boxing’s demise have always been greatly exaggerated, however, though never as soundly put to sleep as they were the night Austin Trout (26-0, 14 KOs) retired Miguel Cotto (37-4, 30 KOs).
TROUT GOT NO RESPECT FROM COTTO OR BOXING ESTABLISHMENT
Trout came into the fight an underdog physically, entering the ring with a fighter in the running for the greatest of his generation– a generation that includes names like Shane Mosley (46-8-1, 39 KOs) and Joe Calzaghe (46-0, 32 KOs), one should note. But the psychological disadvantages Trout faced eclipsed any logistical shortcomings he may have exhibited before the fight. Agreeing to fight Cotto, the definitive Puerto Rican boxing champion of this decade, in Madison Square Garden, on a night in part dedicated to the memory of Hector “Macho” Camacho (79-6-3, 38 KOs), set the scene as one of the most aggressive away games possible. Trout couldn’t have found himself a more hostile environment fighting Ricky Hatton (45-3, 32 KOs) in Manchester. Yes, the audience received his victory with a grace uncharacteristic of the boxing home crowd, but Trout had no reason to expect that warmth, even as someone under the employ of their hometown hero. And if the crowd felt a particular appreciation for the man who had, for all intents and purposes, just ended Cotto’s career, they had good reason—Trout had humbly taken all kinds of disrespect from a fighter he admired greatly before stepping into the ring with him, from the egregiously low payday to the fact that, as champion, Cotto forced him to walk into the ring first.
THANK AUSTIN FOR RETIREMENT OF COTTO, ARCE, POSSIBLY PACQUIAO
Many will argue that Trout-Cotto’s twist ending was the most exciting factor in the whole fight, and that other fighters have made a more potent bid for Fighter of the Year. After all, Trout is cut from the same cloth, technically, as Bernard Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KOs), Winky Wright (51-6-1, 25 KOs), and Floyd Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs)—not exactly purveyors of a crowd-pleasing boxing style. Others will note that this has been a year of upsets long before Trout stepped into the ring with Cotto—between Josesito Lopez (30-5, 18 KOs) and Vyacheslav Senchenko (33-1, 22 KOs), the competition in boxing dragon-slaying is stiff. To those naysayers I counter that neither Victor Ortiz (29-4-2, 22 KOs) nor the aforementioned Hatton had the kind of reputation in the boxing community that Cotto earned. Neither fighter had to come back from a beating at the thuggish (and chalk-covered) hands of Antonio Margarito (38-8, 27 KOs); neither were known for having the kind of chin Cotto was famous for. What’s more, Ortiz never reached the elite level that Hatton and Cotto, older though they may be, ever did—he was never more than an Andre Berto (28-2, 22 KOs) carbon copy with a cute backstory for Jim Lampley to sell.AS MARQUEZ’S OPENING ACT, TIMING WAS EVERYTHING FOR TROUT
And then there’s the biggest elephant in the room in the “fighter of the year department”: Juan Manuel Márquez (55-6-1, 40 KOs). It took him four tries to beat Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) badly enough that even the judges couldn’t fudge the numbers, but he finally, a week after Trout’s victory, handed Pacquiao that one-way ticket back to his game show studio and the Philippine Congress. And yet, without Cotto’s demise shortly before, would Márquez’s victory have felt as poignant? Trout’s victory ushered in a sea change, a passing of the guard in our sport that snowballed with Márquez’s victory and, just this weekend, Jorge Arce’s (61-7-2, 46 KOs) retirement at the hands of this generation’s greatest Filipino champion, Nonito Donaire (31-1, 20 KOs). Trout’s victory is far bigger than his own career—it is a victory that herald’s in a new era of boxing.
CANELO-TROUT IS THE NEW MAYWEATHER-PACQUIAO
The greatest thing Trout has achieved in his victory for the sport of boxing, as so many fighters who destroy moneymakers (and the possibility of a money-making fight in the future) so, is to thwart the plans of the promoters in having Cotto step in the ring with bright young thing Saul “Canelo” Álvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs). Only 22, Álvarez has established himself as the new face of the game in the light middleweight division—a face visibly distraught at watching the money he could have made beating Miguel Cotto to a pulp slip out of his hands like so much sand. And what is the fun of boxing in the post-Don King era if not cheering for promoters to lose chances at making more money? But what Álvarez has lost at the hands of Cotto reemerges as a new opportunity—the chance to fight Trout for far less money and far more glory. And we all know that in the world of boxing, a shot at glory that doesn’t come with the equivalent purse is fight that won’t ever happen, especially if one of the fighters has a coveted undefeated record. And yet Álvarez-Trout will undoubted become the most wanted fight of 2013 on the part of fans that will likely spend years demanding the novel idea of a fight with an unpredictable outcome. Yes, fans got their new Mayweather-Pacquiao, a week before they bid Pacquiao adieu for good, and they have only Austin Trout to thank—how could he not be the 2012 fighter of the year?