It is nine years now since Austin Trout’s boxing career hit a peak with a victory over hall of famer Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Eight since he took Saul “Canelo” Alvarez the distance in front of 40,000 fans in San Antonio. And three since his most recent shot at regaining a world title.
At 35, he has reached that stage of a fighter’s career where they might fear their future is behind them, when they are raging against fading glory. The fighter nicknamed “No Doubt” might be forgiven for having a few.
If he is, he has a funny way of showing it. As he relaxes into a sofa in the office of the Real Boxing Only Gym in Al Quoz, Dubai, Trout seems perfectly at ease with where he is in life.
A beaming smile rarely leaves his face as he talks about his four children, about his mum, about his tattoos, about wishing he played more football when he was growing up, and about travelling to Dubai for the first time. And about what is coming next.
“If you’re not here to be a world champion, what would be the point?” Trout says.
“If I thought I couldn’t be a world champion again, it would be a waste of time. It is still money, but I am here to win.
“I’m not here to be a stepping stone, or a gatekeeper. I am here to be a champion.
“I’m on the way back up. I get past this guy, then Legacy will put me in a position to get closer to my goal. Then, hopefully I’ll get to beat up somebody famous next time.”
Trout will be headlining a fight night at Atlantis, The Palm on Friday, when he meets Mexican fighter Alejandro Davila. It is the first in a series of shows planned for the city by promotion company Legacy Sports Management.
It is the first time Trout has fought outside of the Americas as a professional, although his amateur career did take him as far as Korea and Azerbaijan.
It seems a long way to go to fight someone from just down the road. Trout is from Las Cruces, a small US city around 30 minutes north of the Mexican border.
Plus, this is relatively new ground for boxing. The Middle East might have played host to the likes of Anthony Joshua, Jamel Herring and Carl Frampton in recent times, but it is far from the strongholds of the sport, like Las Vegas, and the Garden.
Trout has been there, done that, got the belts, in a 39-fight career that has pitted him against some of the all-time greats.
“Cotto was a great night because I won, but Canelo was almost the perfect night,” Trout says.
“Because I didn’t win, I can’t say it was the best night of my career. The Cotto fight was.
“Nobody gave me a chance, nobody even knew who I was.
“I got into the press conference and said, ‘I just want to give all the thanks and glory to God’, and I was just yelled at by these New Yorkers, saying, ‘Who? Who is this guy? Who is you?’
“I had to introduce myself, and the Cotto fight was a great introduction.”
That win by unanimous decision led to the fight against Alvarez, when Trout’s unbeaten record – and his WBA light middleweight world title - would ultimately go.
Defeat, in front of a packed arena, on the weekend of San Antonio’s fiesta, and when the city’s basketball team had an NBA championship game, hurt badly.
“The city was booming at the time, but my fight with Canelo superseded those other two events,” Trout says.
“Being part of an event that big was just huge. My little town in New Mexico, the whole place came out for the fight.
“Had I won, it would have been the greatest night of my career – but I lost. And I hate that loss.
“I hated that loss so much. It plagued me. But I can’t let that be a bad memory. I lived it, it was a big part of my life.
“I didn’t watch that fight for a long time. But now I appreciate that experience.”
Trout seems grateful for all the experiences that have shaped him. Of his mum warning him off basketball in favour of boxing instead.
Of playing the sport favoured by the guys down the road in Mexico – football – in his youth, like fellow world champion boxers Paulie Malinaggi and Sergio Martinez. “It helped develop my agility and footwork,” he says.
And of becoming a father aged just 16. His daughter, Kaira, turns 19 on the day he is fighting at Atlantis. He has already given her her present – concert tickets to see Tyler the Creator – and he could not be prouder of her.
“She has never put me through anything that I put my mum through,” he says.
“She is as smart as a whip. She could be the President if she wanted to be. Anything she wants, she could do. I couldn’t be happier.”
Well, maybe one thing could make him happier. Another shot at a world title.
“I was 21-0 when I got my world title, but even after that no one knew who I was,” he says.
“I was under the radar, and I had to travel down to Mexico, to Canada, and Panama, just to get my opportunities.
“Beating these guys in their back yards, it was the most fun part of my career. We travelled, we fought, all for the experience and love of the competition, and to get my rankings up.
“It feels like I am going back to what we were doing when we had to grind to get to that world title. It was definitely the most fulfilling part of my career.
“I feel like this is that part of my career again.”
Tickets for this event can be purchased here.