Jono Carroll was not at his best in his latest fight and it cost him dearly.
The former title challenger from Dublin landed on the wrong end of one of the biggest upsets of 2020, as he fell prey to Maxi Hughes over 10 rounds Wednesday evening on ESPN+ and BT Sport live from Production Park Studios in South Kirkby, England.
Judges John Latham and Mark Lyson each scored the bout 96-95 while Ian John Lewis had it a surprisingly wide 97-93 in favor of Hughes, who picks up by far the biggest win of his career.
The battle of southpaws never quite advanced beyond a moderately paced boxing match. Carroll was less active than has been the case in recent outings, patiently working behind a steady right jab while avoiding Hughes’ efforts to do the same. The former title challenger took the lead on most of the occasions, though the lack of snap in his punches perhaps attributed to his fighting at a career-heaviest 137 ½ pounds for his first ring appearance of 2020.
Carroll increased his punch output in round four, mixing in a looping left hand even if not always effective or accurate with the power shot. Hughes generally fought moving forward but not doing much when on the inside as Carroll was able to shoot his jab and then immediately slide out of harm’s way.
Hughes sought to take the lead in round five, though only making him a clearer target for his troubles. Carroll landed a right hook to the body even as he was being pulled down by the back of his head. Hughes landed an occasional left hand, though the moments so infrequent that they had little bearing on the tempo of the contest.
An uppercut by Hughes caught the attention roughly one minute into round seven, by far his best sequence of the fight. Carroll rode out the brief momentum shift, remaining composed and continuing to outwork the British southpaw. The same pattern carried over into round eight, where Carroll consistently doubled up on his jab with straight right hands often immediately to follow.
Hughes briefly turned the tide in round nine, riding out a combination to score with a left hand. Carroll was suddenly on the hunt as Hughes began to stick and move, firing off his left and then darting in reverse and out of the punching range of his smaller foe.
Carroll landed a left hand to begin round ten, but was immediately met with a left hand counter from Hughes. Efforts to impose his will proved frustrating for Carroll, whose accuracy declined in the later rounds which Hughes exploited in landing upstairs after evading an overshot right hook.
The final minute of the round saw Carroll’s tank run low and also forced to ride out a late surge which ultimately cost him the fight.
Hughes landed a long left hand which forced Carroll to the ropes in perhaps the most dramatic moment of the fight. It was a strong finish for the veteran trialhorse and enough to earn a career-changing opportunity for his next outing as he improves to 21-4-2 (5KOs).
Carroll falls to 18-2-1 (4KOs), suffering both career losses in his last four starts. Even if he managed to get the win, the performance was a far cry from his career-best win just five months ago, forcing former 122-pound champion Scott Quigg into retirement following an 11th round stoppage win this past March.
Prior to Wednesday, Carrol’s lone loss came in his lone title attempt, dropping a 12-round decision to then-titlist Tevin Farmer last March. The now 28-year old southpaw rebounded with a 10-round decision win over Eleazar Valenzuela last August, followed by his aforementioned stoppage win over Quigg.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox