Miguel Cotto has taken himself out of the Manny Pacquiao sweepstakes, and instead will meet WBA Junior Middleweight titlist Austin Trout on December 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. This is an intriguing fight in its own right, but the purpose for the winner will clearly be to position himself at the front of the pack to land a fight against Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in 2013.
Trout (25-0, 14 KOs) has publicly called out Canelo on numerous occasions, but he lacks the name recognition and drawing power necessary to entice his team, particularly as he presents a substantial risk to them. A win over Miguel Cotto would instantly change that and boost his appeal.
Meanwhile, a Canelo vs. Cotto match has long been a dream fight in the Junior Middleweight division. However, Canelo's team clearly has wanted more seasoning, and Cotto now (37-3, 30 KOs) needs to prove that he's still at the top after his tough loss to Floyd Mayweather.
Therefore, Cotto vs. Trout is a high-risk, high-reward fight for both fighters, while also serving as a legit meeting between two of the top or five fighters in their division.
It's also a much smarter move for Cotto than the rematch with Pacquiao would have been. Pacquiao's camp was calling for their usual catchweight nonsense, and would have forced Cotto to come down to 150 pounds.
There's no reason to do that, and there's no reason to put your fighter in such a physically demanding bout when he's coming off a string of so many in succession. By facing Trout, Cotto gets a chance to pick up another title belt in his own division, and he gets to do it by selling out Madison Square Garden in front of his own fans, making plenty of money in the process.
Even if Cotto loses to Trout, it's likely he drops a decision, and doesn't get too banged up along the way. But a win instantly propels him towards a big money, high profile fight against Canelo. In fact, if Cotto defeats Trout, I'd wager we see Cotto vs. Canelo on Cinco de Mayo weekend in 2013 in a major Pay-Per-View battle.
By choosing to fight Trout, Cotto retains much more control of the situation, and leaves himself with more options in the future. Plus, the Pacquiao rematch could still be on the table for him if he wants to seek that out.
This was the smart move for team Cotto, and if leads to Cotto vs. Canelo in 2013, it will be that much better not only for them, but for fight fans as well.
Sources: ESPN.com/Boxing, ProBoxing-Fans.com
Jake Emen runs the boxing news website ProBoxing-Fans.com. You can find more of his writing, along with interviews, rankings and breaking news stories at the site, or you can follow ProBoxing-Fans.com on Twitter, @ProBoxingFans.