JONO CARROLL has found himself on the verge of a world title shot and on Saturday he will get the chance to cross the threshold towards potential glory. However, he first has to come through a tough test against Frenchman Guillaume Frenois, who has only lost once in nearly 50 fights.
The Sheffield Arena will be the battleground for the 16-0 Dubliner to move into mandatory status for IBF super-featherweight champion Tevin Farmer, a man who Carroll has instigated a war of words on social media recently.
The 26-year-old believes that Frenois is the perfect fight for him at this stage and doesn’t expect the former European champion to do anything spectacular to derail his plans for his clash with Farmer at some point in 2019.
Carroll told Boxing News: “This is what the fighting game is about. Getting in with big names, having real fights and winning world titles is what we’re in boxing for. I’m looking to getting in there and making a statement.
“Frenois has some pedigree. You don’t hold the European title if you don’t. He does all the basics correct but at the same time, he’s unlikely to do anything unexpected. In my career, from the beginning in the amateurs right up till now, I have come across plenty of other fighters like him, so I’m very prepared for what he is going to do.
“It’s the perfect fight for me at this stage but he’s very experienced so I have to be careful. It’s a world title eliminator, so I have to be switched on, as my whole career has been leading up to this point.”
Carroll has bounced between promoters in recent years and finds himself back in the capable hands of Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing, who he was previously with after his unexpected victory in Prizefighter in 2014 until 2016.
One of his major ambitions of fighting in the States, providing he gets past Frenois in Sheffield. “Matchroom do things big. If anyone can get me the world title fights that I want, it’s going to be them. I’m happy to be back with them. Frank Warren really did look after me but I believe Matchroom will take me to the next level. I’ve dedicated half my life to this sport and to winning a world title and whatever fight takes me down that path is the one I am going to take,” he said.
“They’re a huge company and anyone involved in the sport knows that. This is where I need to be. They are going over to America now and there are some big fights in the division out there. My dream has always been to fight in the States, but I’ve never even visited there yet, so with Matchroom behind me, I’m confident that I’m going to fulfil that ambition.”
Never far from his mind is the thought of sharing the ring with Farmer, who won the belt on the road in Australia in August, before he breezed past Belfast man James Tennyson inside five rounds in Boston. Farmer will be back in action next week in New York against Francisco Fonseca, with Carroll hoping to be a very interested observer.
Although he holds a modicum of respect for Farmer, whose story has been well documented since he emerged with a win over Ivan Redkach, a win that earned him some major attention in the boxing world, Carroll doesn’t shy away from his own personal view that Farmer is a disrespectful man in a gentleman’s sport.
“Tevin Farmer is a good fighter, you don’t win a world title if you’re not, let alone even fight for one, so I’m not going to take anything away from him. But there are so many holes there that I can poke and I can definitely get through to him. I don’t know if he’s truly got the heart though and we’ll see if he has when I drag him into a war,” Carroll said.
“Is he as good as people say he is and I don’t honestly think he is. That’s just my honest opinion. He’s a slick fighter for four rounds, awkward as anything, but then he starts breathing hard and fades a bit. He’s been active but I believe his heart will let him down. The fight game is all about heart and I want to see if he is prepared to go to war over 12 rounds at my pace because I don’t think he’s capable of doing it.
“We all go through good and bad times not just in the sport but in life in general. You have to respect what he has gone through and where he has come from and bounced back from a difficult start to his career. For any man to achieve what he has is amazing and inspiring, so I have respect for him as a man, but not as a fighter because this is a gentleman’s sport.
“I think you should be more respectful to the people that you are fighting. He gives backhanded compliments to people, like he’ll say something incredibly disrespectful then a little nice bit at the end and that sort of thing doesn’t sit right with me. He has what I want and for that reason alone, I don’t like him.
“He’s meant to be a role model and kids look up to him, yet all he does is disrespect everyone that he has fought. You should respect anyone who gets in the ring and he barely gives anyone half the respect that they deserve.”
However first up is Frenois in Sheffield, a city with a rich history in the fight game and home to many former world champions. The opportunity to fight in the Steel City is one that excites Carroll, who like many in the sports holds former world featherweight champion and Hall of Famer “Prince” Naseem Hamed in high regard.
He compares Sheffield to his own country of Ireland, which of course has an illustrious history in the sport and he believes that the current Sheffield torchbearer Kell Brook, who fights against Michael Zerafa to headline the bill, has to really make a statement this weekend.
“Prince Naseem comes from Sheffield and everyone is well aware of what he accomplished. I remember watching him as a kid and just thinking how amazing he was,” Jono said.
“Sheffield has a lot of history in boxing and I’m looking forward to seeing how Kell Brook performs because if he wants to get that Amir Khan fight then he has to make a statement and impress everyone, so we’ll see what he’s made of. I’m looking forward to the chance to fight here as it’s a real old school city which I like. It’s very similar to Ireland in that it has that old school fighting community and I can’t wait to get in there and perform in front of a knowledgeable crowd.”
Carroll has his dreams to fulfil and one of his major aims is to bring a world title back to Ireland. But he refuses to look past what will be a tough test in Frenois, who promised a battle of warriors in Thursday’s press conference. A loss for Carroll will be a huge setback at this stage and could well leave those hopes and dreams shattered.
However, the affable Irishman, despite all his success, is still in awe of what he has achieved in the game and is not planning on seeing the run end anytime soon. He never seems to be in a bad fight and Saturday promises to be no different.
“I didn’t choose boxing, boxing chose me. All of the things that have happened to me in the sport have happened almost totally by chance. Even my first pro fight was like that, as I was just in the gym and the trainer came over to me and asked me if I wanted to go pro,” Jono said. “Then I get a call for the Declan Geraghty fight and then I’m in the press conference and find out that the winner gets to be in Prizefighter. It’s just snowballed from there and I’ve just been rolling with the punches and seeing wherever it took me so it’s been a journey for me. I’ve always been an underdog in life and these things aren’t meant to happen to me.
“I’ve got friends texting me saying I can’t believe this is happening to you and I have to agree with them. I look on Youtube and see some of my highlights and I sit back and go, wow, I really performed there. I’ve impressed myself to be fair, but I’m making my family proud and that is the main thing for me.
“I want to take fights to Ireland as it’s my home. I’ve only ever fought there once in my whole career and I want to bring a world title back there. Eventually I’d love to be like Conor McGregor and have all the fans behind me because as we all know once the Irish fans get behind someone then they are crazy, so I want to be that next person up and enjoy that limelight. It’s my dream to have those big fights back home and I’ve already visualised it, so it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.
“Saturday is a banana skin, so if goes wrong then none of what I want happens. I can’t take my eye off the ball and this is already sort of like my world title fight, as everyone of my fights up to this point have been.
“Boxing is like a game of snakes and ladders, so with one loss you’re right down to the bottom of the snake, whereas I want to keep climbing those ladders and keep catching the eyes of the fans. It’s amazing the support that I have been getting from all over the place, as people like my style, so it’s down to me to keep on impressing.”