By Gavan Casey
Prizefighter champion Jono Carroll sits down with DBB’s Gavan Casey to discuss why he chose Matchroom and Sky Sports, his promise to his sister, and why he’s different to fellow Prizefighter champs Willie Casey and Martin Murray.
JONO CARROLL ON BELIEF
“I won a lot of people a bit of money that day, I think! Even in my hometown of Dunshaughlin, my friend put a small bet on – I think it was only about 50 quid – and when he went into our local bookie they said to him, ‘That Jono Carroll fella is after cleaning us out!’ and they sent him over to Ashbourne to collect his winnings.”
That Jono Carroll fella.
At 8pm on the 6th of December 2014, he was a three fight novice. By 11pm the same night, ‘King Kong’ Carroll left York Hall, Bethnall Green as a 6-0 conqueror of Prizefighter, with victories over both a former European champion and a current British champion.
Oh, and a £32,000 cheque.
“The celebration in Peter’s Pub was unbelievable. I’m walking around with three drinks in my hands – people handing me drink after drink saying thanks for winning them money – and I don’t even really drink that much, so I was giving them to my nanny!
People were texting me and writing to me on Facebook beforehand saying they were putting 50 quid or 100 quid on me in Prizefighter, and these are people that don’t really have it to spare, you know? Some of these people are betting their dole money on me coming up to Christmas. It was crazy.”
If Carroll’s beard is more Stanley Kubrick than Santa Claus, the slick prospect has certainly been a shining light on his global circumnavigation in search of stability in his budding boxing career.
Like many Irishmen his age, the one time Olympic prospect emigrated to Australia in search of employment three years ago. Jobs as a personal trainer and construction worker – among others – allowed him to make ends meet, as he worked on compiling a 2-0 professional boxing record down under.
Carroll has now settled back in his homeland, where he trains under Paschal Collins in Celtic Warrior Boxing Gym. His recent signing on Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Promotions’ dotted line was likely done with his unaffected hand; a minor injury the only obstacle on the lightweight counter-puncher’s track as he seeks to continue his freight train-like assault on the Irish and UK boxing scene. Carroll returns on a Josh Warrington-headlined bill in Leeds next month.
“I wouldn’t say I was even half-expecting it, but Paschal did turn to me after Prizefighter and say three people were interested in signing me. We went with Eddie Hearn because of Sky Sports- it’s a great platform to be on.
You don’t even have to be a boxing fan to have Sky Sports, you could be a football fan. And you could be sitting there thinking, who’s this chap? And you see the Irish shorts – or I have a little Irishman on my shoulder too – and the Irish are great for supporting their own, especially if it has anything to do with fighting.
Even casual sports fans might sit down and watch you. It’s a great opportunity.”
It was, after all, on Sky Sports where Carroll introduced himself to the sporting masses; firstly during his Irish Fight of the Year disqualification victory over fellow prospect Declan Geraghty, but predominantly during his Rocky-esque crusade to Prizefighter glory last December.
“Going into Prizefighter, I kind of knew I was going to win the first fight. I’m not out of the amateur ranks for too long, so I’m used to four round fights. Those little bursts of energy. So going into my opening fight, there’s nothing new there.
With the two other guys I scalped, they’re both 12 round fighters. So I’m thinking, when I spar Stephen Ormond, he only starts kicking into gear in the third round or so. Hopefully these guys will be the same and won’t be used to three round fights. I hoped my energy over three rounds would give me an advantage, and I think it did.”
“I never, ever thought I was going to lose– I just hadn’t thought too much about winning, either. I hadn’t planned for it. I said to my sister who had just gotten married, ‘If I win, I’ll send you away on holidays for your honeymoon.’ And I did. But to be honest I was kind of just saying it at the time, I didn’t think too much about it!“
But after an ecstatic winning speech fitting of a more internet-viral status, is he still on ‘Cloud 10?’
“Look, I never doubted myself, but even watching it back a couple of times it hadn’t quite sunk in that I’d won it. I was watching it thinking, Martin Murray won this once and went on to challenge for world titles. Willie Casey went straight into a European title fight and then fought for a world title.
After winning it, I think I definitely have more belief in myself as a fighter.
“But these lads are both older than me- I have youth on my side. I’m only 22, so I’m in no rush to be in world title fights. Don’t get me wrong- I cannot wait for the day they do come around, but at the same time I’m patient.”
Now campaigning at super-featherweight where he hopes to carry greater power, Carroll is signed on to fight five times per year on Matchroom bills. It’s far from baby steps, but ‘King Kong’ himself is under no illusions as to the importance of patience in his potential ascent to superstardom.
“If you’re not careful in this game, you get hurt. There’s no point in rushing into a fight and, despite being a better fighter, being beaten by someone with just that bit more experience than you. You can’t put an old head on young shoulders.
I know myself what I’m capable of doing, and I know I’m capable of winning a world title. But all in good time.”
“I haven’t even had a six rounder yet! I can’t wait for the days when I’m doing eight, ten, twelve round fights, but it’s all a process of learning.
When I was a kid I was watching boxing, and I always wanted to be a professional fighter. But the professional game is far more patient. Pros throw less shots, they don’t waste shots. And I’m hoping to go that way with my career in a way.
When I came in here first and sparred Stephen Ormond, I was wrecked after three rounds. I just blew myself out in three rounds instead of taking my time. Now, I’m pacing myself. I’m waiting for the other fighter to make a mistake instead of trying to push them into making a mistake. So now I’m doing more rounds in sparring without a problem, and I think you saw me pacing myself in Prizefighter as well.”
Carroll’s 22 year old shoulders perhaps carry a wiser head than he’ll take credit for, but it’s certainly clear that he delves into the wealth of experience provided by his esteemed trainer.
“I know it’s me in there, and gameplans can go out the window with one shot, but Paschal gave me a gameplan going into Prizefighter that I tried to stick to. I took on board every word he said. If you listen during the Buckland fight, going into round 3 Paschal says to me, ‘Catch him on the way out, but you have to roll with his punches!’ And that’s exactly what I did,” Carroll says.
“Paschal sees things in there from the outside that I can’t see. One on one, I’m not seeing every punch a guy is catching me with, I’m just feeling it! But he can see it.
And I believe the difference between being a good fighter and a great fighter can be whether you listen to your trainer or not.”
In 1933, the original King Kong scaled the exterior of a skyscraper en route to worldwide fame. With his own Sky-bound ascent beginning in Leeds on April 11th, wise young Jono Carroll may instead opt for the stairs.
“This game is like a trade. I’m still just learning my trade. There are many more steps to take.”
Gavan can be contacted on Twitter: @GavanCasey – or at [email protected]
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