Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto, who was in the running to face Manny Pacquiao in a rematch this fall, is off the list after announcing Friday night that he will challenge junior middleweight titleholder Austin Trout.
Cotto and Trout will meet Dec. 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York, Cotto said on his official Twitter account.
"I officially announce that my fight on Dec. 1st at MSG will be with the undefeated WBA (junior middleweight titlist) Austin Trout," Cotto wrote.
The 26-year-old Trout, nicknamed "No Doubt," is not a well-known fighter, but he has strong boxing skills and an unbeaten record. This will be, by far, the biggest fight of his career.
"I'm trying to put this legacy together and this is what I needed. I am ecstatic right now," Trout told ESPN.com. "I get to check off a few things on my bucket list with this fight. I get to fight in the Garden, I get to fight a superstar in the Garden, and I get to fight on HBO, if that's where this fight is."
Television plans are not finalized, but Cotto attorney Gabriel Penagaricano told ESPN.com that talks were ongoing with HBO and Showtime, and he hoped they would be wrapped up in a few days. He said the fight would not be a pay-per-view and that Miguel Cotto Promotions would handle the promotion with help from Golden Boy Promotions, which promoted Cotto's fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 5.
"We are teaming up with Golden Boy for aspects of the promotion, but Miguel doesn't have any promotional ties to any company and that's the way it's going to remain," Penagaricano said.
Cotto lost his version of the 154-pound world title to Mayweather at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in the year's biggest fight. It generated an astonishing 1.5 million pay-per-view buys.
Although Cotto lost a unanimous decision, he gave Mayweather, widely considered the world's No. 1 fighter pound-for-pound, one of the toughest fights of his career.
Cotto had been planning to return to action on Dec. 1 at the Garden, where he has been a huge draw for years because of his immense popularity in the Puerto Rican community.
He emerged as one of three possible opponents in the running for a fight with Pacquiao, who also is considering frontrunner Juan Manuel Marquez (for a fourth fight) and Timothy Bradley Jr. for a rematch of their highly controversial fight in June. Pacquiao knocked Cotto out in a 2009 welterweight world title fight.
"We explored the Pacquiao fight," Penagaricano said. "We discussed it for several days but there was no agreement. The weight was an issue and we didn't agree on all relevant aspects of the deal, so at the end, there was no agreement. After that didn't work out, we had a had a short list of candidates and Miguel picked Trout.
"He's undefeated, he's a good challenge, he's a world champion and that was attractive to Miguel. The world title aspect and the undefeated record were most attractive in making the selection."
Trout found out that he had gotten the fight by phone from his promoter, Greg Cohen, on Friday and said he did not believe him at first.
"He told me and I said, 'Get out of here,' " Trout said. "There had been talks before so I didn't believe him. Greg said, 'So how does "Trout-Cotto" sound to you?' I said, 'Great,' but I didn't think he was serious. He said, 'This is happening.' It's a miracle for Cotto to take this kind of fight. I'm gonna take full advantage of this opportunity. I feel like going to train right now."
That would have been difficult because Trout, from Las Cruces, N.M., was in the car driving to Arizona for the weekend.
Top Rank's Bob Arum, Pacquiao's promoter who also promoted Cotto for his entire career until the Mayweather fight, told ESPN.com that with Cotto locked into Dec. 1, Pacquiao would fight on Dec. 8 and he hoped to wrap up a deal with the opponent this weekend.
"I don't want to step on Cotto because the only night he can get the Garden is Dec. 1," Arum said. "So that means we then take Dec. 8. Hopefully, Miguel winds up on HBO and we'll go on pay-per-view the next week. That's the idea."
After losing to Pacquiao in 2009, the 31-year-old Cotto (37-3, 30 KOs) moved up to junior middleweight and stopped Yuri Foreman in the ninth round at Yankee Stadium to win a 154-pound world title, making Cotto a three-division titleholder.
Cotto defended his belt twice, against Ricardo Mayorga and then Antonio Margarito in December in their grudge rematch, before losing to Mayweather.
Trout (25-0, 14 KOs), a southpaw, has made three defenses since winning a vacant title in February 2011 with a near-shutout decision on enemy turf in Mexico against Rigoberto Alvarez, the older brother of Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, who holds another version of the junior middleweight title.
Trout returned to Mexico for his first defense against David Lopez. He made his second defense in El Paso, Texas, by knocking out Frank LoPorto in the sixth round in November. He also is coming off a lopsided decision against Delvin Rodriguez on June 2 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., on the undercard of the Antonio Tarver-Lateef Kayode cruiserweight fight.
Going into that fight, Trout was considered a leading candidate for Alvarez's Sept. 15 title defense. But Trout-Rodriguez widely was panned for its lack of excitement and Alvarez elected not to fight him. Now Trout has gotten an even bigger fight.
Trout said he had no concerns about going to Cotto's New York turf for the fight.
"I've done that before, going to other people's house," he said. "I went to Mexico twice for title fights and I will take that experience with me. I'm ready for it. I've been through the Mexican fans. The Puerto Rican fans are passionate as well, but I've had my seasoning."
Trout said he is also a fan of Cotto's.
"I am definitely a fan," he said. "I watched him coming up with Top Rank. I've been watching him for a while. I will prepare for the Cotto that gave Mayweather his fight next to (the first fight he had with Jose Luis Castillo). I know the jab will be important. I'll step around him. I saw how Pacquiao did it to him and I think I have better footwork than Pacquiao."