The Dublin super featherweight fought to a stalemate versus Guillaume Frenois in an IBF world title final eliminator at the Sheffield Arena on the undercard of Kell Brook’s clash with Michael Zerafa.
This morning the all-southpaw match-up was bumped up to the chief support slot after Olympian Josh Kelly pulled out of his clash with David Avanesyan and Carroll was hoping to take the opportunity with both gloves.
‘King Kong’ did begin well and hurt Frenois multiple times but his French opponent grew into the fight and enjoyed a lot of success down the stretch.
In the end, it was a split draw, and Carroll may still go on to face IBF champion Tevin Farmer in 2019 although Frenois and his team may have something to say about that.
A former French, EU, and European champion, his veteran opponent brought a wealth of experience to the contest. Having vacated his continental belt last summer following a second successful defence against Ruddy Encarnacian, Frenois has since stayed active with wins over journeymen Ivan Morote and Michal Dufek as he awaited an IBF opportunity.
Carroll had smashed his way into title contention with three successive wins in rankings titles fights against Johnny Quigley, Humberto De Santiago, and Deco Geraghty. The last few months had seen him exchange pointed social media exchanges with champion Farmer and was wanted by the beltholder as a voluntary defence next weekend in New York but Frenois’s team insisted on their already-ordered final eliminator taking place.
Coming out to ‘Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ from The Lion King, Carroll immediately endeared himself to the Steel City crowd and then went to war for an engaging 12 rounds.
It was Frenois who began on the front food, maching forward with a high guard as Carroll targetted the body with raking shots.
A wild head from Frenois caught and cut the 26-year-old Irishman at the start of the second and Carroll seemed momentarily dazed. Bleeding down the outside of his left eye, Carroll began to set his feet more, staying in the pocket and digging in shots. Frenois was landing his own fair share, and the more eye-catching of punches, but the Frenchman saw his legs turned wooden following an overhand left to the temple from Caroll with 30 seconds to go.
Hurt, Frenois survived into the third and recoved well, landing heavy shots from range while Carroll did good work inside as a cut opened up to the right of the Frenchman’s eye. Almost identically to the previous stanza, Carroll had the visitor hurt with 30 seconds to go, this time to time the overhand left catching the point of the chin. Again, Frenois saw out the round but had to take a lot of leather to the body in the closing stages.
There was plenty of gamesmanship fromt the corner of Frenois, with referee Marcus McDonnell warning them for taking too much time before the fourth – and another break was called for their fighter’s laces, which had mysteriously come undone, to be re-tied. When we finally got going with the round, Carroll’s momentum continued to build as he pounded the body of Frenois.
The pace slowed slightly in the fifth as 35-year-old Frenois began to come back into the contest, using his jab effectively and boxing smartly.
While he was enjoying success to the body, Carroll was looking for big shots upstairs in the sixth and Frenois was countering well as his recovery continued.
Carroll gradually grew into the seventh, a cagey session which opened up into some trading in the closing seconds, another close, potentially crucial, round on the cards.
Putting shots together well, Carroll had his moments in the eighth round but was taking a LOT of clean left hands which, had Frenois more power, could have caused some real damage.
Into the ninth, it was bite-down-on-the-gumshield-time for both and Carroll was refusing to wilt, putting in some sapping bodywork on Frenois who responded, again, with massive-looking left hands.
A succession of clean shots came in from Frenois at the start of the tenth but Carroll would walk through them and keep applying the pressure. A tired-looking Carroll landed a clipping shot well after the bell much to the displeasure of Frenois who took a delayed knee to make a point and hoping to have one deducted from Carroll. There were stern words from McDonnell but no punishment as we headed into the championships rounds.
The eleventh was pehaps Frenois’s strongest and he caught Carroll at will as well as staying, mostly, out of range. Raising his glove at the bell, it looked to be the Frenchman’s fight to lose going into the final three minutes.
Carroll did not go hell-for-leather in the closing round, another close exchange as they battled it out to the bell, both claiming victory at the end.
Commentator Andy Lee felt the fight was a draw and Eddie Hearn could be seen saying ‘close’ as we awaited the scores, with a long delay suggesting some confusion.
Eventually, we were ready, and the cards were split, with tallies of 115-113 to Frenois, 115-113 to Carroll, and a 114-114 draw – a split draw.
Frenois, who moves to 46(12)-1(0)-1, was disgusted. Carroll now moves at 16(3)-0-1 and the next move is unsure.
A rematch would seem likely but an IBF mandatory title fight is needed in the near future and Hearn suggested immediately that an agreement be made where Carroll fights for the belt in his next fight with a shot for Frenois afterwards being assured.
Philly southpaw Farmer currently holds the belt and defends it next weekend in a voluntary at Madison Square Garden versus Costa Rican Francisco Fonseca, a bout he is wholly expected to win.