Carnival barking at its best, yesterday's open-to-the-public promotion for a Dec. 1 Miguel Cotto-Austin Trout championship bout at Madison Square Garden rolled out prizefighting's usual proclamations of inevitable victory by both men and the traditional photo-op stare-down between the two.

But unlike last year's lead-in to Cotto's brutal super welterweight title victory over Antonio Margarito at the Garden, this preview was done with the utmost mutual respect, even as some 150 fans flavored the event with whistling and chanting.

"It's very honorable to be that list of people that Cotto's fought," said Trout, the weight division's reigning World Boxing Association champ, "because he's fought the best. But it's going to be even better to be on that list of people that have beaten Cotto."

That brought more hoots from the predominately pro-Cotto gathering in the auditorium of El Museo Del Barrio on Manhattan's Upper East Side. But even the noisy crowd participation remained good-natured, with one fan asking Trout, the 27-year-old from Las Cruces, N.M., "How do you deal with fighting at the Garden with idiots like me shouting at you, 'Who?'"

A smiling Trout, dapper in a vest and bow tie, reminded that "only one man's going to be in the ring. You guys can't help him." Besides, Trout said, "Your passion is what's making the sport thrive."

For his part, Cotto, the 31-year-old Puerto Rican who has won world titles at three different weights and calls New York "my second home," offered a "thank you to Austin for giving me this opportunity. I didn't come here to talk a lot. Camp just started two weeks ago. I'm going to do the same as always. I'm going to train hard to become champion of the world. See you on Dec. 1."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The whole thing was in stark contrast to last year's edgy prelude to the bloody Cotto-Margarito fight, when Margarito snarled that Cotto "hits like a little girl" and Cotto reiterated his earlier charge that Margarito was a "criminal" based on accusations that Margarito previously loaded his hand wraps with plaster.

Monday's show, far more elaborate than the number of spectators it drew, featured almost an hour of salsa dancing and predictable over-the-top raves by Oscar De La Hoya, the former champion whose Golden Boy Promotions took the lead in arranging the fight. De La Hoya assured a "tremendous" undercard and an expected sellout. (Tickets range from $500 to $50.)