Austin Trout had plenty of work in New York at a news conference in October to announce a title defense against Miguel Cotto.
There were interviews to do and promotional spots to film and training sessions to complete. But before he left New York to head home to Las Cruces, N.M., for the start of the intensive portion of his training camp, he had one task he was determined to complete.
A 2004 U.S. Olympic alternate and the WBA super welterweight champion, Trout wanted to make certain he secured Cotto's autograph before he got back onto the plane.
That task done, Trout was able to attend to the many tasks before him as he prepared for his bout Saturday at Madison Square Garden against the Puerto Rican superstar.
A little hero worship never hurt anybody, not even a charismatic, talented, world champion fighter.
Trout plans on making the long flight home from New York on Sunday, the day after the fight, with his autograph and his black title belt.
Being a fan doesn't mean he's not willing, or eager, to belt Cotto in the nose, however. Trout was in the crowd at Madison Square Garden in December cheering along with the 20,000-plus crazed fans as Cotto took apart Antonio Margarito in the culmination of their bitter rivalry.
Cotto has long been one of Trout's favorite fighters, but Trout understands his job. When you have a family and you're preparing for an expensive wedding, one usually grasps fairly quickly the significance of doing the job properly.
"Well, it's funny, because there's two sides of Austin Trout: There's Austin Trout, the fan of boxing, and Austin Trout the fighter, and you might get two different [people]," Trout said. "As an answer, I would say it's a great fight, I'd love to watch this matchup, but Austin Trout the fighter is always thinking in the back of his mind, 'I could beat both of those guys,' or 'I could beat that guy.' So in the back of my mind, I've always sized up anybody I've been a fan of.
"And really, when [I was] daydreaming as a kid, or even now, because I'm a daydreamer, when I'm fighting in that big arena, the person I'm beating up is one of my favorite fighters, because in my opinion to be the best you have to beat the best. So, yes, I don't think it should be a hard transition coming from a fan to a fighter at all. I've been doing it my whole career."
Despite an engaging personality and a winning record, most of what Trout has done has been far away from the spotlight.
He's fought in tiny outposts throughout the Southwest. He's gone to Mexico to fight a Mexican for the world title. He's gone to Panama to meet a Panamanian.
It's only been in his last two fights, which have been on Showtime, that Trout gained notoriety in the U.S.
His manager, Bob Spagnola, went on a rant at the post-fight news conference on Wednesday. He blamed American TV networks for choosing to air fights of foreigners instead of Americans.
That, Spagnola said, is why the American Olympic boxing program is in so much trouble.
Trout's problem gaining recognition, though, is because he's left-handed, and in boxing, the rule of thumb is that if you don't have to fight a left-hander, then you don't.
Plus, Trout doesn't have the kind of flashy style that Floyd Mayweather Jr. employs or the high-powered offensive style that has made Cotto a shoo-in to be elected one day to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
But Trout knows that fighting in the Garden, where Cotto is king, will add to his difficulties. The crowd will be roaring at every Cotto move, and it's hard to see Trout getting the benefit of the doubt from the judges in rounds that could go either way.
So Trout, who prefers a style predicated on not getting hit, knows he'll have to bring the fight to Cotto to some degree.
"We're not going to necessarily run, but movement's going to be a big deal as far as our game plan goes," Trout said. "Without going into too much detail, I do want to say that I am willing to sit down and fight. I know I'm going to have to put a lot of leather on him in order to get a decisive win in the Madison Square Garden, so a totally defensive fight is not going to necessarily be the key to victory for me."
In a way, Trout feels like he's fighting the establishment. It's Cotto who's the big name and who's drawn more than 100,000 fans in eight fights in New York. It's Cotto who can help generate massive pay-per-view sales and astounding gate numbers in fights with guys like Canelo Alvarez. It's Cotto who, despite being the challenger, broke the unwritten boxing rule and was introduced after the champion at Wednesday's news conference.
"I feel like the powers-that-be don't necessarily want me in the boxing game, because I feel like I'm a thorn in everybody's side who has to fight me," Trout said. "A loss would be the best way for them to get me out of there, so losing is really not an option. Even if I still perform to the best of my ability I think that they won't let me in. And they didn't let me in anyway, I had to kind of climb through the window."
He's a champion and now he's got the opportunity to defend his title against a mega-star opponent on the sport's biggest stage.
It's a heady time for Trout, who never expected to be in this position. He figured that one day, being a pro fighter and all, he might land that autograph.
He's an awkward guy to fight, he's left-handed and he's coming off a less-than-pleasing win over Delvin Rodriguez. Never in his wildest dreams did he think he'd be fighting Miguel Cotto in Madison Square Garden on national TV.
Cotto was offered a massive contract for a rematch with Manny Pacquiao and yet still chose Trout.
"I do look at it as a redemption song," Trout said. "But yes, I was shocked. I was shocked that he chose a fighter like me, because a lot of times I've been known as high-risk, low-reward, even with the belt. So I figured if I can't get these guys to fight me with the belt, then what do I have to do, who do I have to beat to get these names going? And lo and behold, [promoter] Greg Cohen and [adviser] Al Haymon made the Miguel Cotto fight happen, and I can't be more appreciative for it."
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