by Charles Jay
Where is Austin Trout now situated within the boxing landscape? Is he now a part of the “elite,” to use an overused term? That depends on how you look at it. He did score a win, and an impressive one, over Miguel Cotto, who is a nice pay-per-view attraction, just below Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao as far as that goes. So some people saw him do it. But when you beat the star, does that make YOU the star? Well, boxing doesn’t necessarily work that way.
Trout isn’t going to be carrying a pay-per-view telecast anytime soon, based on what he did, but the southpaw with a record of 26-0 has at least put himself in a position that he might be an opponent for somebody else who is significant, and for more money too.
If we are talking about the upper reaches of the profession, money-wise, the two opponents who are the most desirable are Mayweather and Pacquiao. Let’s call them the “Big Two,” for the sake of brevity. Cotto has fought both of them. Ricky Hatton, had he been successful in his comeback bout, would have been limited in the sense that he has faced both of them as well. Trout is fresh (what a concept – fresh Trout!), which means that he could fight those guys, and has a solid credential, along with an undefeated record, with which to do it.
Really, it just depends on what the promoters are looking for, and what Trout himself would be looking for. Timothy Bradley, who is also undefeated – albeit with something of an asterisk – wasn’t considered to be bankable as a pay-per-view proposition, even in a rematch against Pacquiao, because of a combination of his asking price and the earning potential that was seen to have some definite limits (he may eventually get the rematch, just not now). Trout would be less costly in a fight against a marquee foe, but that doesn’t mean he’d be so cost-effective. It’s all relative.
Another thing to consider might be how most people will interpret this result. Maybe some will look at Cotto as someone on the downside, though he did give Floyd Mayweather all he could handle fairly recently. So let’s concede that it is a major accomplishment, and one that was reflected with wide margins on the judges’ scorecards. But enough to get a lot more people excited?
You’d like to think it could be, not necessarily because it could bring a legitimate opponent in front of either of the Big Two, but also because you have someone like Canelo Alvarez looming. While Trout holds the WBA championship at 154 pounds, Alvarez is the WBC champion at that weight, so you would have a unification situation. A win in a fight like that would give either of the combatants added legitimacy, and you can’t argue about the fact that you’d be looking at a bout of significance.
The winner of a fight like this would conceivably be in line for a match with Mayweather (we say Mayweather because he is connected to Golden Boy, while Pacquiao is with Top Rank). The problem with it is that Alvarez may be able to get the big payday with a Mayweather without having to go through someone like Trout. Or, if you follow what the Golden Boy plan was and may still be, you could see a rehabilitation of Cotto, with eventual plans for him to fight Alvarez, only with the timetable pushed back from May 4, which was the date originally penciled in.
From the standpoint of size, Trout is a solid junior middleweight, while Mayweather, and Pacquiao, for that matter, really aren’t natural at that weight, and while those “elite” attractions are getting older, Trout is in his prime. With a nice jab and good foot movement, the former national amateur champion starts in a pretty good place, and he could be a presentable foe for either guy.
Sergio Martinez is a fighter who would always seem to be game for a payday, and as a guy who doesn’t exactly have to lose weight to make 160, he’s not too big for Trout. After having beaten Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., his opportunities may not be all that plentiful.
Remember that Trout is just starting to make the leap into a greater consciousness among fans, though. He was virtually unknown outside of boxing aficionados, so he has had limited exposure and therefore has not been “pre-sold” to the extent some other fighters have been. The win over Cotto is obviously a huge boost, and if you were Trout, you would want to capitalize on any money opportunity if you could.
But that opportunity has to cut both ways. Neophytes talk about “legacy,” and fighters may give it a little lip service, but since this, yes, is a business, what counts in the end is not proving oneself against tough opponents for its own sake, but how much money is going to be realized.
A guy like Martinez would want to know what the payday is, and whether it is enough to turn him away from activity against lesser lights. Mayweather and/or Pacquiao want $15-$25 million, at a minimum, when they step into a ring, and would the economics of what can be generated from a fight against Trout make that feasible? Besides, if they consider Trout to be a potentially troublesome opponent it is actually LESS attractive to them, though it may be more attractive to knowledgeable fans. Money and drawing power make Cotto a more attractive opponent for Alvarez as far as Golden Boy is concerned, regardless of the result of Saturday’s fight. And so that is where they might continue to concentrate their attention.
Being a great fighter and being a star are not always one in the same. But you knew that already, didn’t you?
This is, and has always been, a “risk vs. reward” business. We can all agree that Austin Trout is quite capable. But is there too much risk involved in fighting him, for the financial reward it would bring? That will be the main determinant when all is said and done.