Thursday, December 6, 2012

Opinions and Observations: Cotto-Trout

As the Miguel Cotto-Austin Trout fight entered the seventh round, my card was even; the fight was there for the taking. Trout had jumped out to a lead in the bout's first three rounds with crisp, short combinations and solid straight left hands to the body. He used his reach, jab and movement to keep Cotto at a distance. He didn't seem awed by the Madison Square Garden atmosphere. By the end of the third round, Cotto started connecting more frequently and he carried that success into the middle portion of the fight. Using his right hand as a range finder, he pummeled Trout with a number of left hooks to the head. He also scored with some hard straight right hands.

However, much of Cotto's success was a result of a tactical mistake by Trout. Instead of boxing intelligently from rounds four to six, Trout decided to stand in the pocket in hopes of outslugging Cotto. He was going for an early kill, thinking that he could grind down Cotto with his physicality and power shots. It's not that Trout didn't have any success in these frames, but by standing in front of Cotto, he was providing his opponent with a much easier way to land punches.

After being hit by Cotto's power shots for several rounds, in the seventh, Trout went back to boxing. He found some real success by throwing lead right hooks and two and three-punch combinations. One combination I really liked was his right hook/left uppercut/right hook combo. After his combinations, he quickly got out of the pocket and regrouped. It was a winning strategy. Cotto couldn't counter effectively enough to change the terms of the fight and he was unable to track down Trout outside of the pocket. Trout looked spry as the fight reached its later rounds while Cotto's energy started to flag. Trout had success whenever he dictated the action by being first. He also moved very well laterally along the ropes to avoid Cotto's attempts at applying pressure.

Trout easily won the final rounds of the fight with his higher work rate and sharp combinations. Cotto was reduced to trying in vain to land something big. After the final bell, the only drama was whether the final scores would reflect the action that took place in the ring. Cotto had a history of receiving favorable decisions in Madison Square Garden (the Mosley and Clottey fights were both close and went his way). Ultimately, the judges unanimously scored the fight for Trout – 117-111 x 2 and 119-109, a tally that might have been a little too wide. (I also had Trout winning 117-111.)

For Trout, his performance answered several questions. Make no mistake; Cotto landed a number of vicious bombs from the third through the six rounds, specifically with his left hook. Trout was affected by some of these shots but they weren't enough to seriously hurt him or take away his fighting spirit.

In addition, far greater fighters than Trout have been defeated by a hostile atmosphere. When things weren't going well for Trout, it would have been easy for him to let the momentum of the fight and the fervor of the crowd get the best of him. Instead, he settled himself and fought a disciplined second half to secure the victory. That was "gut-check" time for him, and he passed the test with flying colors.

Cotto certainly had his moments in the fight. Even in a number of the rounds that he didn't win, he had several good sequences. It wasn't until the last third of the fight that it started to be something less than competitive. He moved well early in the bout and didn't resemble the plodder that he had been in some of his less spectacular professional showings.

However, I was surprised at how little Cotto attempted to go to the body. In his three fights with trainer Pedro Diaz, Cotto has minimized his left hook to the body, a punch that was once his best weapon. I understand the impetus to limit the punch. Cotto got into bad habits where he loaded up on the shot. He sometimes squared up too much while throwing it and, quite frankly, he got hit too much in return. Diaz has favored a more mobile Cotto who spends less time in the pocket and initiates offense with more versatility. It was a wonderful strategy against Margarito in the rematch but I'm not sure it was the best approach on Saturday.

To beat Trout, Cotto needed to have made it a war. He should have unloaded as much as he could to the body to slow Trout down for the later rounds. Although Cotto did have success in the middle rounds, again, this was more of a function of what Trout didn't do (box) then what Cotto was able to accomplish. In my estimation, the inability to go to the body early and consistently in the fight was a missed opportunity that cost Cotto dearly.

Ultimately, Trout's reach, hand speed and athleticism proved to be too much for Cotto to overcome. However, Cotto didn't embarrass himself in the ring and any talk of him retiring seems entirely premature to me. But Cotto is now in a phase of his career where he has to be matched carefully.

For a next opponent, the same two names make the most sense for both fighters: Saul Alvarez and Cornelius Bundrage (who also has a junior middleweight title). Of course Trout will want to capitalize on the biggest win of his career by going after the brightest star at 154 (Alvarez). On paper, it's a very interesting fight as Trout has the hand speed and athleticism to trouble Alvarez while Canelo's combination punching and accuracy could cause a lot of damage. However, I don't see this fight happening immediately.

Trout may have the boxing pedigree to take on Canelo, but he certainly doesn't bring financial clout to the table. Why would Alvarez want to risk his status in the sport for such a limited financial upside? A Bundrage fight would earn Trout additional legitimacy within the sport and promote the narrative that he is an elite talent (this juror is still undecided on that front). Perhaps with multiple belts and additional exposure on premium cable he would become a more enticing opponent for Alvarez.

Cotto may suit Canelo better than Trout does in that he brings a more robust financial upside. And even though Cotto would enter that fight having lost his last two bouts, Alvarez-Cotto could still be marketable because of Cotto's experience and his punching power. In truth, I don't see Cotto beating Alvarez, but he certainly has a puncher's chance. Alvarez can be hit and he's probably never tasted a hook like Cotto's. (I'm sure if Alvarez had his way he would want to fight Floyd Mayweather next.) 

If Cotto can't make an Alvarez fight, a bout against Bundrage would be palatable because it's a potential winnable matchup. Bundrage has very heavy hands, but he doesn't move them all that often. Cotto would have a chance to box his way to a victory.

Perhaps the lasting image of Cotto-Trout occurred after the first round. The Showtime cameras zoomed in on Cotto as he rested on his stool. His left eye had already started to swell and he breathed heavily like it was the start of the 12th round, and not the 2nd. 

Cotto has vowed to continue his boxing career, but will his body and battle-scarred flesh cooperate?

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

  1. I was disappointing by that fight because I've been into Trout. I like the way he just stands there and doesn't seem to take any sh*t from anyone. You can call a 'tactical error' but I call it MANNING UP.