By Sean Crose
It wasn’t all that long ago when Austin “No Doubt” Trout was sitting among boxing’s upper echelon. He defeated the great Miguel Cotto, after all. He also lost a controversial decision to Canelo Alvarez (there are still those who feel Trout won that one). So, what happened? How is it that Cotto and Canelo are about to engage in the biggest fight of the year outside May 2nd while Trout is about to appear on Fox Sports 1 Tuesday night.
Well, the American Dream happened. That’s right, Erislanda Lara, who calls himself the American Dream, defeated Trout so handily back in late 2013 that Trout’s stock took a serious hit. Trout’s won three in a row since, but has done so on a relatively small scale. He’s been a feature television attraction, sure, but on smaller broadcasts.
The trend continues this week when Trout battles Joey Hernandez on Premiere Boxing Champions’ maiden voyage on Fox Sports 1 in a bout that will be aired live from the Hollywood Palladium. Trout, whose record now stands at 29-2, is clearly the favorite here, but the 24-3-1 Hernandez – who goes by the unlikely nickname of Twinkle Fingers – is trained by the highly under-rated former champ, Freddie Pendleton. He’s also in possession of a solid resume (when two of your three loses comes to Julian Williams and Cornelius Bundrage, there’s not a whole lot of shame involved).
The simple fact is that Trout is engaged in a clear strategy to get back to the top of the sport one step at a time, slowly and methodically. And the plan, when one really thinks about it, is a fairly wise one. First of all, Trout might not have the most fan friendly style, at least not when it comes to contemporary fans. He’s arguably a slickster, after all, which makes him a tough sell in the era of GGG-Lemieux.
He’s also lost to Lara, who could be considered king of the slicksters if not for the presence of Guillermo Rigondeaux and Floyd Mayweather. In other words, Trout has a lot of convincing to do. By keeping himself active on smaller scale broadcasts, however, Trout is remaining in the public consciousness. He’s also throwing out the possibility that he could be viewed as the little engine that could. Fans, especially American fans, love an underdog, and Trout could most certainly be seen as an underdog right now in comparison to some of boxing’s big names.
Trout has to keep winning, however, and in impressive fashion. PBC may be controversial, but it can truly help the career of a fighter like Trout, provided he keeps looking sharp on television. The knockdown he suffered in a recent fight didn’t help matters, but the fact that he came back to win did. No more knockdowns, though, Austin, at least not from men who people clearly expect you to beat handily.
It’s good to keep in mind that Trout was once a holder of a major world title – the WBA super welterweight strap – which Trout successfully defended four times. Such facts stick in people’s minds, as will Trout’s list of previous opponents. Fighters, however, have to be a gift that keeps on giving if they want to be popular and relevant. Just ask Floyd Mayweather, who should be smarting right now from a serious public backlash after deciding to face Andre Berto this weekend rather than the likes of Amir Khan.
Trout, though, is worlds apart from Mayweather at the moment. As he is from Cotto, Canelo and many other top names. And right now, that might not be such a bad thing. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.