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SI Now host Maggie Gray says boxing is proving to be alive and well in 2017. Time_Sports

Imagine. Just imagine.

You are at your peak, you are at the summit of whatever it is you do. And you are suddenly handcuffed with a year off.

Austin Trout knows the frustration. He has lived it. But Trout is not only talented, he is resilient. He has now quickly put all the frustration behind him and now he simply focuses on the future, on the bright and shining star that is another world championship.

Trout will walk that exhilarating walk, step through the ropes, step into center ring in that roughest and most unforgiving of livelihoods on Saturday night, July 29, most probably in Brooklyn, N.Y., to face off against IBF junior welterweight world champion Jarrett Hurd.

“Definitely, it was frustrating,” said the 31-year-old graduate of Las Cruces Mayfield High. “Before, when I had a layoff, it was due to politics. That was early in my career. But now I’m in my prime. I’ve really been hurt by it.”

But Trout has always been the consummate professional. He has been in the gym three and four times a week — even with no fight dangling there in front of him, no end-of-the-rainbow fight urging and pulling him along.

Laughing (and he is still able to laugh), he said, “Really, I’ve been Mr. Mom. I’ve been trying to get things right with my kids. I love my family. But I need my job. I need to fight.”

Trout has been helping his wife Taylor with the three children and he is a devoted father. And Taylor and the children are always at Dad’s ultimate office — the arena on fight night.

But he is ready to get back to that toughest of offices.

Trout is 30-3 with 17 knockouts and he is coming off a good effort against undefeated Jermall Charlo. That was May 21, 2016, in Las Vegas. It was a good fight, but another close loss for Trout.

And it was more than a year ago.

Take a look at his record. His three losses have come at the mountain top of his 154-pound division. He won the WBA world title in February, 2011. He defended that world title four times.

He lost a hotly contested decision to Canelo Alvarez. He lost a decision to slick Erislandy Lara. And he lost that close decision to Charlo. The current combined record of these three opponents is 98-3-3.

Now, after more than a year … that year of frustration, he will get his chance again.

“It’s hard to get motivated when you don’t have anything in front of you,” said Trout’s long time trainer Louie Burke. “But Austin is the consummate professional. He stays in good shape. He’s ready for this shot. We don’t need tune-ups. Austin is ready for the best.

“We’re not worried about ring rust,” Burke said. “We’ll get it all off in training camp. And he’s had some good sparring. He has been able to work with guys like Abie Han and get good work during the layoff. We’ve been able to use Tim Meek and Zach Prieto and Evan Torres and Josue Garcia — all tough kids and kids you will hear from in the future. By fight time, Austin will be just right.”

Trout said, “Absolutely, there is such a thing as ring rust. That is part of the frustration. But we will have to knock the rust off in camp. We’ll keep camp here in New Mexico. We might go up to Ruidoso; I’m not sure. But we will start it here in Las Cruces.”

Austin Trout has traveled this road before. And come out on the mountain top.

He beat Taronze Washington on Nov. 5, 2009, to improve to 21-0. He did not get a fight again until Feb. 5, 2011 … the night he shut out Rigoberto Alvarez in Guadalajara to win the vacant WBA world super welterweight championship.

Alvarez was the road block then. Hurd is the road block now.

The tall (6-foot-1) fighter from Accokeek, Md., is 20-0 with 14 knockouts. He won the IBF world title with a decision over Tony Harrison on Feb. 25 in Birmingham, Ala. He can punch. But Trout is seldom there to be hit. Most fight experts consider Trout to be Hurd’s toughest obstacle yet.

Trout knows this will not be easy, though. Nothing at the mountain top is easy.

“We’ve sparred a couple of times,” Trout said. “I sparred with him when I was getting ready for Charlo and when I was getting ready for (Luis) Galarza (who Trout stopped). It won’t be easy. Nothing will be easy at this level.”

After a brief pause, Trout said, “But it will be done.”

And, despite the frustration of the wait, there is actually a plus side to this one for Trout.

“It’s probably the most notice I’ve ever had for a fight in my career,” he said.

Trout has forever been the outsider. He is tall and rangy for his weight class at 5-9 1/2 and with a 72 inch reach. He is a southpaw. And he is hard to hit. No one wants to fight that combination.

So it has been work and wait, work and wait for much of his career. And that career is far from done.

“I’ve been a world champion but I’m still not done,” he said. “I’m inspired by guys like Marvelous Marvin Hagler. There is still a lot to be done in the ring.I feel like I can go much longer. The last fight was the first time I’ve ever been cut. Usually, you can see a fighter’s career in his face, hear it in his speech.”

Trout is deeply religious and a devoted family man and he is articulate … well spoken enough to find a spot on television. He is beginning to find a niche as a commentator. He knows he cannot box forever. But he can talk about boxing forever.

But his dance is not done and he knows it.

“I’ve been going to the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas for the last three years,” he said. “They do a bunch of tests — hand-eye-coordination tests, a CT-scan, an MRI. They do that and compare them the next year, see if you have changed or slowed down. I’ve been good, I’ve been clean. Everything is perfectly in sync.”

Laughing again, Trout said, “Maybe that’s because I haven’t fought enough.”

Burke, who has worked with Trout throughout his professional career, said, “Austin looks good. I like what I see. Actually, he seems to be ahead of schedule. Everything is good. His weight is good, his power, his muscle tone, his speed. We’ll just get him sharper and sharper.

“It’s a long camp,” Burke said. “We don’t want to push it. But Austin will be ready on fight night.”

And Austin Trout is still hungry, still in love with this rough and tumble jungle called boxing.

“I do still love this,” he said. “I do. I have the great passion. I have that fire that says they don’t want me to be the champion. They don’t. But I will put in the hard work and I will peak out at the right time. I’m always learning new things about my body, always improving.”

Austin Trout has been the man no one wanted to fight. But he has waited and he has persevered and he has been to the top of the mountain. He is a former world champion.

Now he is looking to eliminate the word former.

The countdown to that breath-swiping moment that is fight night has begun. And finally, finally, finally, the wait is almost over.

Bill Knight may be reached at 546-6171; bknight@elpasotimes.com; @BillKnightept on Twitter.