Late last year, Miguel Cotto made what turned out to be a dramatically bad decision – one from the Winky Wright School of Bad Career Choices.
Whether Cotto made it with all of the pertinent information or not is up for debate, but there is no questioning that Cotto's choice to fight Austin Trout instead of Manny Pacquiao in December falls somewhere between awful and horrific.
For far less money (around $10 million less) and less exposure – not to mention a far more difficult style match – Cotto chose the previously unknown Trout, who then drilled Cotto in a career-defining victory that put him into position for a major 2013 fight.
Never, though, could Trout have anticipated the gift that floated from the skies a few months later like manna from Heaven.
Canelo Alvarez, the 22-year-old Mexican who may be the biggest star in boxing not named Mayweather or Pacquiao, got tired of playing games with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and opted for a fight against Trout on Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio in a WBA/WBC super welterweight unification bout that will be televised live on Showtime.
Alvarez had been in the running – or, at least he and many in the media believed he had been – to face Mayweather on May 4. He grew tired of the constant demands from the Mayweather side and instead of agreeing to fight on his undercard, chose to headline Saturday's show against Trout.
It was a stunning decision on so many levels, not the least of which is that the same factors are at play in Alvarez-Trout that were at play in a Cotto-Trout matchup.
The 22-year-old Alvarez hasn't faced the kind of elite competition that Cotto had, so he's in some ways at even a bigger disadvantage against the smooth-boxing Trout.
Trout showed surprising power in outboxing Cotto, and Alvarez was keenly aware of that. Trout couldn't have possibly predicted that a 22-year-old who is one of the leading contenders to face Mayweather in the fall would make such a daring and risky decision.
Few boxers in the super welterweight division are looking to tangle with Trout. None are offering him a fight with a mega-payday looming in a few months.
"I have much respect for Canelo for demanding this fight," Trout said. "Some people don't want to fight Austin Trout, but when his people didn't want him to fight me, then he made his demands known and as a hungry true champion should, he called out for the best. So there's much respect to him for that and for putting his foot down and making that happen.
"And I just thank the fans as well, because I think it was the outcry from the fans that put the pressure [on Canelo] to make him make those demands."
Alvarez, though, gave himself a fall-back position. His team negotiated a rematch clause. If Trout wins, Alvarez has the right to demand a return bout.
If Alvarez wins, he's off to seek a Mayweather bout and it's up to Trout to regroup. That is the kind of ignominy that Trout has faced throughout his career.
He's used to it and is a nice, easy-going sort who doesn't show his temper. But clearly, it's motivation.
"The rematch clause is only one way," he said. "When I win, the clause could be in effect, but if he wins, they go about their business. It shows to me a lack of confidence in their fighter. My team believes in me 100 percent against anybody. And I know, as you know, [Golden Boy president Oscar] De La Hoya and [CEO] Richard Schaefer tried to not make this fight happen at every turn. When they changed the fight from [Las Vegas] to San Antonio there was talk of [Mexican light middleweight Alfredo] Angulo being their pony, but that's when Canelo put his foot down like a champ and said, 'No, I want Trout.'
"They tried hard not to make a fight, but I wonder how that must feel for him knowing that your team doesn't have the utmost confidence in you. I don't know that feeling. My team believes in me."
Trout clearly believes in himself. He had no problem going to fight in San Antonio, where a crowd that could exceed 40,000 will be cheering heavily for Alvarez.
That's as tough of a road game as there is in boxing, but the fact that Trout was not only willing but eager to do it speaks volumes. It is, after all, a world title, not a local or American title.
"I feel like the fighter who just fights at home and claims to be a world champion is not representing the world correctly," Trout said. "Even after the fact where I feel like I've established myself as a hometown attraction, I still [don't] mind traveling and defending my belts around the world. "The greats did it. [Muhammad] Ali did it. He fought all over the place. Plus, I like to travel and I like to see other people in their cultures. It's not a problem for me at all."
It could, though, wind up being a major problem for Alvarez. He still hasn't beaten a high-level fighter in his prime, and he chose one of the most difficult there is to try it for the first time.
Trout respects that, just as he respected Cotto doing the same. But like in the Cotto fight, Trout is all about upsetting plans.
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