Former junior middleweight titleholder Austin Trout is invigorated, hungry and ready to fight again after a very difficult 2013, both professionally and personally.
Last year Trout lost his 154-pound world title, suffered the first two losses of his professional career, and his grandmother -- with whom he was close -- died at his wedding.
Having dealt with those hard times, Trout will return -- he says with a clear head -- when he headlines the Aug. 22 season finale of ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" by taking on Daniel Dawson of Australia.
The 12-round bout likely will be sanctioned as a junior middleweight world title eliminator. The venue has not been set but promoter Dan Goossen said the card will take place in Southern California.
The "FNF" season was originally slated to end Aug. 15, but an additional card has been added to the season.
"It's good to be back. I want to get back where I was," Trout told ESPN.com on Tuesday from his training camp in Houston after finishing a workout. "I was at the top and that's where I belong. I've been motivated to come back but I got even more motivated after watching the fight [between Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara] on Saturday night."
Trout's losses were to Alvarez and Lara, both of whom scored knockdowns against him. Alvarez outpointed him in a close fight in April 2013 to unify titles in front of a crowd of some 40,000 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. In his next fight, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Trout took a bit of a beating in a decision loss to Lara in an interim title bout.
"It was more just a matter of me taking some time off. I needed it," Trout said of the reason for his extended layoff. "I had one hell of a year in 2013. Canelo started it. It was a great fight, a great experience. It was a close fight, but it was my first loss and I took it hard.
"And then I got married almost right after that [May 26]. The marriage was the best part of my year, but my grandmother died right after the ceremony, and I was very close with my grandmother. It was very tough."
Trout's fight with Lara was grueling and he was sent to a hospital afterward for a CT scan and observation.
"I had to go to get checked out. It was a tough fight, but I was fine," Trout said. "Lara had me frustrated. I couldn't get my rhythm. I wanted to engage but he only engaged when he wanted to engage. He was tough to fight."
Trout (26-2, 14 KOs), 28, of Las Cruces, New Mexico, said he feels good, has put the losses behind him, mourned his grandmother and is eager to get back to work against Dawson. Trout said has been training for weeks and said he can't wait to fight.
Whether the fight is sanctioned as a title eliminator or not, Trout, a southpaw, said he is not worried about it. He just wants to show a national television audience that he is still a top fighter.
"Hopefully, it will be the eliminator, but I won't put too much worry on it," Trout said. "My motivation is to show that I'm back and that I haven't gone anywhere. I had a bad year and let's leave it at that -- a bad year."
Trout said he is still comfortable making 154 pounds and plans to stick around the weight class unless a big-money opportunity came his way at middleweight.
"There's way too much at junior middleweight," he said. "I don't have to kill myself to make weight. I feel like I can clean up at 154 pounds. I'm going to work my way back. Besides, I can't leave 154 without getting my rematches. I just want to work my way back and prove that I'm the best."
The 36-year-old Dawson (40-3-1, 26 KOs), who lost a 2010 world title fight by 10th-round knockout to Sergey Dzinziruk, will be fighting for the first time in 11 months.
"To me this is an incredible opportunity to showcase my abilities at an elite level in my sport," Dawson said. "I am aware of the challenge in Austin Trout and I believe my team and I are ready and focused on our winning game plan.
"I have great confidence entering this contest due to the fact that I was afforded a full training camp, compared to my 10-day preparation against Sergey Dzindziruk in Los Angeles in 2010. I have spent the last four years reinventing myself."