It's difficult for a lot of fight fans to understand how someone who looked so good, so dominant, so complete as Austin Trout did against Miguel Cotto could then, a year later, look as feeble as Trout did in a one-sided defeat to Erislandy Lara.
Trout, who after his Dec. 1, 2012, victory over Cotto at Madison Square Garden was near the top of the sport, didn't have his heart into his bout against Lara and suffered a severe beating.
Lara dominated Trout at the Barclays Center in the New York borough of Brooklyn on Dec. 7, 2013, knocking him down in the 11th round to punctuate a surprisingly one-sided match. Two of the judges gave Lara nine of the 12 rounds and the third gave him 10 of the 12.
To be honest, it probably wasn’t that close.
Trout hasn't been seen since, but he'll return to the ring on Friday when he takes on Daniel Dawson at the Pechanga Resort in Temecula, Calif., in a match televised on ESPN2.
His promoter for Friday's bout, Dan Goossen, comes from a long line of boxing siblings. His younger brother, Joe, is one of the sport's finest trainers.
And so Dan Goossen has a great perspective on what ailed Trout.
"We're being selfish if we think a fighter, any fighter, who is having personal issues, particularly when it involves family, can get in there and perform the same way," Goossen said. "When it involves death and sickness, you just can't turn a blind eye on that and the impact it can have on a fighter."
Life doesn't stop just because a fighter has a bout scheduled. Trout's grandmother, whom he was very close to, died last year, not long before he had to fight Lara.
Trout, who was coming off a defeat to Canelo Alvarez that may have oddly boosted his stock, simply was in no frame of mind to fight.
But he had a contract and he went forward with the bout.
"I was an emotional wreck going back into Brooklyn, which was her hometown," Trout said. "Being there and not seeing her, man, I can't tell you how many times I broke down and just cried my heart out."
The character, the courage and the fortitude that had marked Trout in his previous fights, including his wide victory over Cotto and his disputed defeat to Alvarez, was absent in the fight against Lara.
Trout wanted to be anywhere but in the ring that night, and it showed in his performance.
It's a part of the game the media and the public often overlook. Fighters are human, too, with the same kind of emotions that other people have.
But because they're so stoic in the ring, it's often easy to forget how personal issues can get in the way of performance.
"We're treated like racehorses by the promoters, and the fans, in a sense, treat us the same way," Trout said. "It's like [they say], 'I don't care what you're going through. You've got to show up and perform.' Boxing is 90 percent mental, and I can tell you this: If you're mind ain't right, it don't matter what you do, it ain't going to happen in there."
The Lara loss hurt, not only because it was so one-sided but also because it was his second in a row.
Goossen correctly noted that losses don't hurt a fighter as much now as they did a few years ago, but without a victory in nearly two years, it's high time Trout gets back to the winner's circle.
"I feel like when I'm clicking, I'm still one of the best out there," Trout said. "Look what I did with Cotto. That was me when I'm focused and ready and prepared and mentally into it. That Lara fight, he's a tricky fighter and a very smart fighter, and I don't want to take anything away from him, but in a sense, I think you have to throw it out. I wasn't on my A game. I didn't want to be there. It was the worst night I ever had with boxing gloves on."
A win, particularly an impressive one, should put him back into the mix. Dawson is 40-3-1 with 26 knockouts, though he's not on the same level as guys like Cotto, Alvarez and Lara.
But he'll be a good barometer for where Trout stands.
"Dawson is one of those really good gatekeepers who will provide us some answers about Austin," Goossen said. "This fight is an important one for him because he has a lot of questions to answer. He has to answer the questions that a lot of former world champions had to answer before him. Can he get back to the heights he once reached, or is he incapable of getting there any more? I think we'll have a much better idea after Friday night."
Trout believes he can do so, and hopes to show enough that he'll be able to land rematches with both Alvarez and Lara.
He said he'd also be willing to jump to middleweight to fight former champion Sergio Martinez, who lost his belt to Cotto on June 7, if Martinez is interested.
Trout hasn't lost his confidence and is convinced that 12 good rounds will bring back his mojo.
"I put in the work and I think that's going to show," he said. "This is just the beginning for me to show what I can do."
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