Jono Carroll produced the best performance of his career on what looks likely to be the final night of Scott Quigg’s. The Irishman outboxed, outsped and ultimately outpunched the former WBA super-bantamweight champion at the Manchester Arena. Boxing is a young man’s game and while Carroll seems to be approaching his prime, Quigg’s now seems well past his.
A long, uncomfortable night for Quigg ended in the eleventh round when his trainer, Joe Gallagher, threw in the towel. If he scratches around for positives in the wake of this, Quigg was left just fighting for pride. He will always have that, but apart from a few positive moments in the second round, he was outclassed and that will hurt even more than anything.
It is a year since Carroll boxed for a world title, losing to Tevin Farmer. It is two years since Quigg last contested a world, when he broke Oscar Valdez’s jaw before being outbattled in the rain in Los Angeles.
But there was a lot against Quigg. He was two weights up from where he held a world title, he is now 31, four years older than Carroll, and he was coming into this fight after a series of injuries, which meant he had not boxed in 17 months.
He stopped short of announcing his retirement afterwards, but there can be few other options. He said this was a must-win fight and he lost, badly.
“As soon as I got in there, from after the fourth round, I didn’t feel like it was there,” Quigg said to Andy Scott of Sky Sports, afterwards. “I was just chasing it. But no excuses, the better man won. “Training had gone fantastic with Joe, but doing it in the gym is totally different to doing it in here. “Fitness-wise, conditioning-wise, there was no problem, it was just the timing. From the fourth round on I was thinking this is going to be a long night.
“I’m a realist, I don’t kid anyone. There are no rash decisions, this was a must-win fight and I believe me at my peak and me at my best would have won here tonight, no problem. That’s taking nothing away from Jono, I think he has a good career ahead of him, but in my day, I believe he wouldn’t have lived with me.
“On this performance and how I felt, I don’t know if there is much left. It’s not hard for me to say, because I gave it everything. I couldn’t have achieved any more, I’ve cut no corners, I’ve given it 150 per cent. I’ve been a world champion, I’ve had a great career. If this is it, thank you for everyone who has come out to support me.”
There was a fast start from Carroll, as he picked his way through Quigg’s guard early on. Quigg was unsettled when he staggered back after tripping over Carroll’s southpaw front foot, but Carroll was sharp, getting through with a lead left and a good uppercut.
Quigg was more aggressive at the start of the second round, manoeuvring Carroll backwards and slinging in overhand rights.
Quigg got a warning for landing a low shot, from referee John Latham, early in the third round. It was a sign of how Quigg was trying to rough up the Dubliner. Still, after he missed with a wild right, he was countered with a chopping left hook that seemed to bother Quigg, who was tapping at his nose.
Early in the fourth, Carroll got ambitious as he stepped in with a bog left hook, but was made to pay as he ate two uppercuts in response. But when Carroll boxed on the move, Quigg struggled to land on him. Quigg just struggled to impose himself on Carroll and the more success the Irishman had, the more aggressive he became.
Carroll began the sixth in a rush, landing a string of shots to which Quigg had no answer. The body shots were now starting the slow down the former world champion and he was becoming a more and more static target.
After pitching a shut out in the first six rounds, the fight was Carroll’s to lose and he kept his discipline, offering Quigg nothing. By the eighth, Carroll seemed to be landing everything he threw, as Quigg could just not avoid the punches, but he could just not get a foothold in the fight.
With 15 seconds left in the round, Quigg launched an attack, but was met by a right hook counterpunch that rocked Quigg back on his heels and Carroll looked on the verge of a stoppage.
Gallagher sent Quigg out for the ninth, but there was no sudden improvement in his fortunes. Quigg forced his way close and tried to open up, but Carroll was quickly on the move, keeping matters at his range, picking Quigg off again.
“If you don’t get anything this round, I’m not letting it go any longer,” Gallagher said in the corner at the end of the ninth.
“He’s not fucking beating me up,” Quigg said in reply.
It was more of a systematic beating than anything, but the conversation ensured that Quigg put everything into the next round. Once again, though, every delay, every miss, was punished by Carroll. He showed enough for Gallagher again to leave him in, although he maybe should have been spared the next round.
Two short left hooks had Quigg again backing up under pressure. Now a sitting target, Latham hovered and Anthony Crolla, in the Quigg corner, handed the towel to Gallagher. Quigg tried to duck and slide his way out of trouble, but there was no escape, and with 46 seconds left in the round, Gallagher threw in the towel to rescue his man.
Carroll said he had learnt from his defeat to Farmer and was now ready to fight for and win a world title.
“In the build-up I have always said this was my time to shine,” Carroll said. “I was here when Scott knocked out Kiko Martinez (in 2015) wishing I could be up on the big stage. This is what dreams are made of when I was a kid growing up. Scott Quigg was one of my idols growing up, he has been in many fantastic fights.
“I’ve been settling down in the gym more, using my jab and not throwing silly shots. I had a lot of pot shots today, but I didn’t throw a lot of combinations that had no power. Even when I was pot-shotting, it had snap, it had power. If we didn’t have power in this fight, Scott was just going to walk through my shots.
“There wasn’t one time when I felt I was gassing or was tired and you saw when I had him on the ropes, I still had the power to whack those shots in. Tonight I showed quality.”