Sean Sullivan reporting from ringside:In hindsight, perhaps matching the aging, battle-worn Miguel Cotto against a taller, bigger, younger, largely unknown, undefeated southpaw was not the best career move for the Puerto Rican superstar. Especially considering that a major payday, high profile matchup loomed against the immensely popular Mexican upstart titlist Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Nevertheless, coming off of his gutsy but losing effort against this generation’s top dog, Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr., seven months earlier, Cotto found himself challenging Las Cruces, New Mexico’s Austin “No Doubt” Trout for his “regular” WBA junior middleweight title.
While Trout certainly left “no doubt” that he is a championship caliber boxer with his domination over Cotto, just how he came across his title belt deserves mention, simply for the absurdity of it. The World Boxing Association, sliding further and further into irrelevance on its own doing, now permits three boxers in each weight class to simultaneously hold versions of its world title; the interim, regular and Super.
The WBA originally instituted Super championships to allow WBA titlists who unify with another sanctioning body’s belt more time in between mandatory defenses. Yet, shortly afterwards, the WBA predictably broke its own rule by starting to elevate its non-unified titlists to Super level, therefore enabling two other boxers to compete for the vacant “regular” version, should they agree to pay a sanctioning fee, of course.
When Cotto captured the WBA’s world junior middleweight belt by defeating Yuri Foreman in 2010, that same year Mexican 154-pounder Rigoberto Alvarez beat Japan’s Nobuhiro Ishida for the WBA’s unnecessary interim title. The WBA then upgraded Cotto to Super status and Alvarez to “regular” champion, despite no unifications having taken place. In February 2011, Trout traveled to Mexico to defeat Alvarez seizing the “regular” title and the WBA rewarded the Mexican by allowing him to fight for its now vacant interim title seven months later, only to lose to Australia’s Anthony Mundine. The Super version passed from Cotto to Mayweather in May.
Held on December 3, at Madison Square Garden, Trout’s trouncing of Cotto was his fourth defense of the “regular” title. Cotto, a three-division, four-time world champion, returned to the Garden for the first time since his revenge rematch against Antonio Margarito last December, which was also the last event held in the venue’s main arena.
Given the size and style matchup, it was clear that this was a fight defined by distance. Trout, standing at 5’10”, looked to maintain control from afar, while Cotto did his best banging away on the inside. In front of 13,096 fans, Cotto, 153½, pressed forward at the outset, as Trout, 154, stayed on his toes finding spots to land his straight left upstairs and down. The Puerto Rican returned to his corner after round one with a cut left eye.
A sneaky left uppercut in the clinches was an effective weapon for the crafty and experienced Cotto, whose own counter shots were working to nullify Trout’s advantages during some of the middle frames. Whenever he caught Trout with a counter, he followed up with flurries in close.
Growing more confident as the rounds went by, Trout’s dominance was well established over the second half of the contest. Keeping Cotto at bay with his footwork and straight lefts, both of the Puerto Rican’s eyes were swelling up, as he grew negligent with his jab and solely focused on throwing power shots if an opening presented itself. Occasionally, he did land clean power shots, which brought cheers from the crowd, though Trout never wavered.
Upping his aggression in rounds nine and 10, Trout was now walking Cotto down and landing his own combinations in close. Continuing to dictate the action in round 11, Trout wobbled Cotto with a right hook. In an action-packed final frame, Trout was finding success with counters and Cotto did all he could to stay on his adversary’s chest hoping to hurt him.
In the end, it was Trout’s southpaw counters and movement that carried the day, as each judge overwhelming favored him with scores of 117-111 twice, and 119-109. Judge John Poturaj gave Cotto rounds three, four and six, while Judge Steve Weisfeld tallied rounds three, five and six for the Puerto Rican. Judge Adalaide Byrd merely gave Cotto round 11. Earning a unanimous decision, Trout both out-threw and out-landed Cotto, finding his mark with 238 of 779 punches to Cotto’s 183 of 628.
“I have to thank God again,” said Trout, now 26-0 (14 KOs), after the fight. “All I wanted was a chance and God delivered it. Cotto is a good champion. For me to be able to beat a fighter like Miguel Cotto is a great honor. Because it was at MSG, there were a lot of close rounds that I thought I pulled out and that I wasn’t sure if I was going to get [on the scorecards].
“My left hand was a big factor in this fight. I felt I did hurt Cotto, but I did not want to be too hasty. He showed me that he had good defense. It looked like around the fourth or fifth round Cotto’s eyes were closing up and that’s when I really tried to start landing my hook-uppercut.”
Regarding his future plans, Trout, who is promoted by Greg Cohen, said, “I understand staying on top is harder than getting to the top and I may not even be at the top yet,” said Trout, “I want to clean out my division and I feel like getting all of the belts is the next thing I want to do. ‘Canelo’ should be next.”
While Trout deserves a big money unification showdown against WBC titlist Alvarez, who was sitting ringside, he may not get it, at least not immediately. Golden Boy Promotions’ CEO Richard Schaefer announced that, despite Cotto’s loss, a Canelo-Cotto battle might still go ahead as planned. It wouldn’t be the first time when a scenario such as that has played out. Zab Judah, for example, received a lucrative opportunity to face Mayweather, even though he’d lost his supposed tune-up against Carlos Baldomir three months earlier, in 2006.
Also, unifying the titles may not be the easiest task either, considering who is out there. A matchup against WBA Super champion Mayweather is unlikely to materialize, though it is unclear if the pound-for-pound king’s plans for 2013 include defending that title. Cornelius Bundrage, who holds the IBF strap, and has thus far made three defenses of it, has been extremely inactive, fighting just once in each of the last four years. Russian Zaurbek Baysangurov won the WBO title in 2011 and has defended it twice this year, but he has never fought outside of Europe.
Despite the improbability of full blown unification at junior middleweight, there remain plenty of interesting matchups that can be made with Trout, including against Carlos Molina, Erislandy Lara, Vanes Martirosyan, Alfredo Angulo, James Kirkland and Keith Thurman, to name a few.
Never known to be all that verbose, Cotto was even more laconic than usual following the bout’s verdict. While suffering his second loss in a row and fourth overall, dropping to 37-4 (30 KOs), the 32-year-old felt that this was not the end of the road for him.
“I’m happy and a little disappointed with the judges’ decision. The scores 119-109 and 117-111 were too far for what I bring into the ring,” opined Cotto, sporting a swollen and bloody mask, before confirming, “I have to continue and look forward. That’s all I have to say.”
In his first professional bout without the Top Rank promotional banner behind him, it was also the first time in eight appearances that Cotto lost at the Garden.
“Like always, I am grateful for all the support I receive here in New York and because of them, I always bring my best,” said Cotto. “I think the people enjoyed the fight. I’m not finished yet. I’m still with boxing on my mind, but I just want to rest with my family for the rest of the year. I never make excuses. I accept my defeat. I learn from them and I’m just going to continue. Trout was a real slippery boxer and he knows how to move.”
VELEZ AND JACOBS VICTORIOUS ON TELEVISED UNDERCARD
Jayson Velez, 125½, 20-0 (15 KOs), Juncos, Puerto Rico, picked up the vacant WBC Silver featherweight title with a third-round TKO over Salvador Sanchez II, 125½, 30-5-3 (18 KOs), Tianguistenco, Mexico, who is the nephew of the late featherweight great by the same name. Almost immediately, it was clear that Velez could not miss with his overhand right, repeatedly tagging Sanchez with it throughout the contest. A left hook-right hand combination floored Sanchez near the end of round two. Still not fully recovered, Sanchez—who honored his uncle by wearing the same robe and trunks into the ring that his uncle had worn in his final bout held at MSG against Azumah Nelson in 1982—was dropped again by a right uppercut in round three. Velez went in for the finish and banged away until referee Harvey Dock stepped in to end the bout at the 0:38 mark. Next up for Velez will be a fight against WBC featherweight titlist Daniel Ponce De Leon, who captured the title by defeating Jhonny Gonzalez in his last fight on September 15.
In the second bout of his comeback, after spending 19 months recovering from bone cancer, Brooklyn’s middleweight contender Daniel Jacobs, 161½, 24-1 (21 KOs), took on the “Irish Ghost” Chris Fitzpatrick, 163½, 15-3 (6 KOs), of Cleveland, OH. Jacobs spent the opening minute of the bout fighting out of a southpaw stance before switching back and bouncing hard jabs off of Fitzpatrick’s head in a slow-paced frame. Having not been extended past the first round since 2010, Jacobs remained patient as he continued to shake off the ring rust. In round three, Jacobs began to unload his power shots, primarily the left hook and overhand right. The Brooklynite was in total control by round five, backing Fitzpatrick up and hurting him with overhand rights. Fitzpatrick endured a sustained punishing attack for the rest of the round, but he survived to walk back to his corner. In between rounds, the contest was stopped at Fitzpatrick’s suggestion. Jacobs landed 49 percent of his overall power punches and 35 of 72 in the final round.
While this was a solid win for Jacobs, he clearly needs a few more tune-ups before being considered for matchups against the deep middleweight division’s elite contenders and champions. Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer confirmed that Jacobs would fight again on February 9, underneath the Danny Garcia-Zab Judah junior welterweight championship that will be held at the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, NY.
“I took my time to get the ring rust off and then I let my hands go,” said Jacobs afterwards. “[Fitzpatrick] can take a punch. I was surprised that the referee didn’t stop it sooner.”
December 1, 2012