Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cotto-Trout: Keys to the Fight

Miguel Cotto (37-3, 30 KOs) returns to Madison Square Garden on Saturday to face undefeated junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout (25-0 14 KOs). With a win, Cotto hopes to go big-game hunting in 2013 against Floyd Mayweather, Saul Alvarez or Manny Pacquiao, but will the slick southpaw, Trout, stand in the way? Read below for the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article.
1. How will Trout respond to a real puncher?
Although Trout has a glossy record, his ledger doesn't include notable punchers. Trout certainly hasn't faced anyone as heavy-handed as Cotto is. This is the essential question of the fight. Trout's chin and his reaction to Cotto's left hook to the body will be telling barometers of how the fight will go. At some point, either with a straight right hand or a left hook, Trout will get hit, and hit hard. But will he be able to take these shots? How will his legs hold up? What about his chin? Will he be able to fight through Cotto's power punches or will it make him retreat?
Honestly, I don't have a great read on how Trout will handle Cotto's power. If he can pass this test, Cotto may be in for a tough night. If he can't take Cotto's shots, a defeat is all but assured.
2. How long until Cotto closes the distance?
Trout has solid boxing skills and uses his feet, feints and upper body movement to avoid pressure. However, he's not a runner. He likes to stay in the pocket or just out of range to give himself opportunities for counter shots.
Cotto likes to get close to his opponents but Trout will have an advantage in reach and hand speed. For Cotto, it wouldn't behoove him to get down early on the cards. Although Trout's beard is untested, what happens if he can withstand Cotto's best? Cotto needs to plan for a 12-round fight and if he doesn't get untracked until the third or fourth round, he may be in a perilous position on the scorecards, forced to go for a knockout in the fight's last third.
3. Can Trout hurt Cotto?
In my opinion, if Trout can't land something big, inevitably, Cotto will walk him down with impunity. Trout doesn't have knockout power but he definitely throws power shots, including a good right hook and some solid uppercuts. It will be imperative for Trout to set the tone early in the fight and land something substantial.
Cotto is also susceptible to cuts and it would be wise for Trout to target the eyes. If he can't hurt Cotto with one punch, the precision of numerous hard shots will help thwart Cotto's momentum. If Cotto can withstand Trout's power shots and quick combinations, Trout will find himself in a lot of trouble.
4. Is Cotto's rejuvenation real?
Much was made about Cotto's success against Floyd Mayweather. It's true, Cotto did make Mayweather's nose bleed and had some success along the ropes. Cotto's hand speed looked relatively quick for him and he connected on Floyd with a number of jabs and straight right hands from the outside. However, Cotto only won two or three rounds of the fight, depending on the judge. Yes, he did better than many of Floyd's opponents, but he was never in a serious position to win the fight.
Prior to the Mayweather fight, Cotto exacted revenge on Antonio Margarito, which was Cotto's first bout with his current trainer, Pedro Diaz. Against Margarito, Cotto featured a lot of lateral movement and his legs looked better than they had in the recent past. He was far less of a plodder. Under Diaz, Cotto has used his jab more effectively and he has set up shots better. In addition, his conditioning has been very strong.
However, it's very possible that Margarito, after his numerous injuries in the Pacquiao fight, was already a shot fighter for the rematch and, just a reminder, Cotto did only win a couple rounds against Mayweather. Perhaps all the talk of a meaningful Cotto rejuvenation is just that: talk.
5. The championship rounds.
Cotto has closed the show impressively throughout his career. He scored memorable late knockouts against Zab Judah and Ricardo Mayorga and stepped on the gas in the final rounds to earn victories over Joshua Clottey and Shane Mosley. Cotto has proven his ability to rise to the occasion in big fights, (with exceptions against Pacquiao and Mayweather, who are in another class).
Trout has fought in hostile terrain before, including bouts in Panama and Mexico. Those experiences will be valuable for him on Saturday because he certainly won't be the crowd favorite in New York City. In the past, Cotto has received favorable treatment from judges in Madison Square Garden – you could make a case that he lost both the Mosley and Clottey fights. It will be up to Trout to close authoritatively. The crowd will be against him and the judges may be more inclined to side with Cotto in close rounds. Trout must win the final rounds decisively. Even if he is ahead early in the fight, no lead is truly safe with Cotto in MSG.
Trout's biggest fight to this point in his career happened earlier this year against gatekeeper Delvin Rodriguez. Trout did some things in the fight which I really liked and there were other attributes of his performance with which I was less enthralled. On the positive side of the ledger, he controlled distance beautifully with his subtle lateral and upper body movement. Defensively, he was strong; he rarely gave Rodriguez a clear target to hit. As the fight progressed, Rodriguez couldn't find openings and he grew more hesitant. From a ring generalship perspective, Trout controlled the action.
However, Trout's accuracy wasn't good against Rodriguez, who was there to be hit. In addition, his offense was methodical and very vanilla when he decided to let his hands go. He refused to take risks and press the action. In short, Trout was good enough to beat Rodriguez but I didn't see signs of greatness.
I think that the early rounds of Cotto-Trout will be a feeling-out period, with Trout taking some time to calm his nerves and Cotto finding ways to close the distance. It should be pretty even until the middle rounds, with each frame being fairly close. Trout will land some jabs, short right hooks and left hands and Cotto will connect with a couple of solid right hands and jabs.
As the fight progresses, I see Cotto having more success putting his punches together. As he goes to the body more with his left hook, he will find chances to hit Trout with head shots, specifically with short right hands. Eventually, Trout will get hurt. From that point on, it will just be a matter of time until the fight is over. Trout may very possibly be in the lead when the fight is stopped, but I don't think that he hears the final bell.
Finally, I want to point out that the above scenario is extremely speculative. So much of Trout's ability to take shots and fight through pain is unknown. It's very possible that Trout's chin and body hold up to Cotto's power. In addition, perhaps Trout fights with an increased urgency as he steps onto the biggest stage of his career. Ultimately, I am siding with the known power  shots of Cotto, but if Trout can affirmatively answer the questions about his chin and fighting spirit, he will certainly have an opportunity to win the fight. 
Miguel Cotto defeats Austin Trout by TKO 10.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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