A one-time WBA light middleweight champion, Austin Trout easily admits boxing is a passion that he just can’t let go of.
Trout has been given an opportunity to coach and train boxers for the Team Combat League (TCL), a reality app-based boxing competition show. But even the 38-year-old can’t say he won’t still climb back into the ring when the right opportunity comes along. Currently, Trout and longtime Houston boxing trainer Bobby Benton are looking to put a boxing team together for Season 2 of the Team Combat League.
“This is going to be my focus,” Trout said of the TCL. “If we get a fight maybe before the season, cool. But during the season, unless it’s a great opportunity… I will most likely be training with the team pretty much, so I’m going to be in shape. We’re going to be in camp for 10 weeks.”
It’s hard for Trout and Benton to contain their excitement for this project that came their way recently. They’ve been tasked with putting together a 24-member team of boxers (both men and women) who will compete under the team name The Hitmen during a 12-match season.
While the duo says they already have preferred boxers in mind to fill the slots, they are holding open tryouts on Nov. 18 and invite-only tryouts on Nov. 19 (12 p.m.) at Benton’s Main Street Boxing Gym (1612 Austin St., Houston, 77002)
“Honestly, we have some really good guys in mind,” Trout said. “Hopefully, this tryout can maybe change our mind and take some of these spots we need filled. We are looking for guys with the basics of boxing, effective aggression, effective punching. Those are probably going to be the two most important because of this one-round style.”
But superior boxing skills are not all that will be needed to fill the slots that cover six weight classes on the men’s side and two on the women’s side. Personality, charisma and a strong social media following will be helpful, too, to pull in viewership and to keep it building throughout the season.
“We’re looking for some killers,” Trout said. “We want people who can get busy, get it active, that are exciting. We’re also looking for people who have good personality. And it doesn’t hurt to have a good following. But we will let the show executives look for the personalities second, in my opinion.”
“We’re coming to win,” Benton said. “Austin is competitive and so am I. We’re not coming just to be a part of this thing. We want to make a statement.”
Houston a hotbed for boxing
The statement they want to make loudest is that there is quality boxing in Houston. Benton has a roster of world-class boxers fighting out of Main Street, including unified lightweight world champion Devin Haney.
Trout, a native of Las Cruces, New Mexico, but fights out of Houston and held the WBA light middleweight title from 2011 to 2013, has had several world-class fights including a couple of close losses to Houston brothers Jermall and Jermell Charlo in recent years.
Benton said, “Houston is underrated as a fight town.”
“Big time,” Trout co-signed.
That is why it was a no-brainer for Trout when approached by TCL executives to be part of the show. Initially, they wanted him to be a fighter, but Trout was thinking more as a commentator. He was sold on coaching and doing it out of Houston once he found out that his longtime friend and trainer Benton was on board.
Now the two are focused on putting together a team that won’t just compete but win. There will be three boxers in each of the combined eight weight classes. The men will fight in the 126, 135, 147, 160, 175 and 201-pound weight classes and the women will compete in the 126 and 147 weight classes.
All fighters will fight one round each. In the end, the team with the most victories will be the winner. The Hitmen’s season, which will consist of five home matches and seven away, kicks off on March 28.
“I’m fired up,” Benton said. “Like I said, Austin and I are both competitive and when we watched this thing last season, it was like, `Oh yeah, we’re coming to win.’
“There are great coaches in this thing, and they are competitive, too. But I feel like with us, we’re going to win. Other than win the whole thing, that’s a defeat for us.”
Along the way, Trout believes this will be a major opportunity for the fighters, whose professional won-loss record will not be impacted. There is some residual income to be gained along with getting boxing experience and a chance to develop or grow a following.
“In the end, people are going to fall in love with a lot of our fighters,” Trout said. “So they can continue their pro career with that elevated status or start their pro career with more of an elevated status than they would have. They also have the option of coming back for Season 3 and keep it moving. I think a lot of them will. They are going to love this.”
Nov. 18: Open tryouts, 12 p.m.
Nov. 19: Invite-only tryouts, 12 p.m.
Location: Main Street Boxing Gym, 1612 Austin Street, Houston 77002