Jono Carroll edges Andy Vences to move into World Title Pole Position

Jono Carroll has moved into the mandatory position for the WBA title following a tense and taut win in Florida tonight.

It wasn’t a thriller on the Triller platform but the workrate of the Finglas super featherweight saw him overcome Andy Vences at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Miami.

The bout, announced as a WBA final eliminator during fight week, was the sole ‘serious’ fight on the main Evander Holyfield v Vitor Belfort undercard and was a tactical affair which the busier Carroll deservedly won on a close majority decision.

Initially due to fight on the postponed Lopez-Kambosos card back in June, the pair found themselves in Florida tonight on the latest Triller freakshow. That said, while despairing eyes were focused on the unsavoury headliner, Carroll and Vences produced a competitive fight which simmered before igniting in the closing rounds in the Irishman’s favour.

Following his shock defeat to Maxi Hughes last year, Carroll had gotten back to winning ways in March, stopping Armenian Romic Airapetean in four rounds in Malaga. Vences, too, was on something of a comeback trail having lost his last fight – and his place in the Top Rank stable – last July, dropping a split-decision to the unfancied Luis Alberto Lopez.

That was his second defeat in three but Vences was still the ‘home’ fighter here – albeit a slight underdog with the bookies. Carroll, however, as always, won hearts during the build-up and in the fight before claiming a victory that will catapult him to even bigger match-ups.

Southpaw Carroll began cagily as the longer Vences probed with straight shots. Targeting the body as the opening round progressed, it was a solid start from the Dubliner.

Stepping it up in the second, Carroll forced the action, raiding well and landing the greater number of scoring shots.

Carroll continued the good work in the third, caching Vences as he came in, with the Californian struggling to establish a rhythm.

It was scrappier in Round Four, with Vences’s bodywork coming together early on before Carroll landed a clean shot upstairs at the midway point.

The bursts of Carroll worked well early on in the fifth although Vences responded with more raking bodyshots.

Round Six began brilliantly for Carroll who landed a number of flurries before Vences again worked his way back into contention to give the judges some more work to do in a fight that could be being scored any which way.

The intensity and trading went up a notch in the seventh, Carroll shading things up close but Vences working well at mid-range.

Vences landed heavy shots in the eighth, reddening the face of ‘King Kong’ and pushing him back to the ropes. Carroll responded by calling his man but there was a sense he needed a strong finish – and, boy, did he get one.

A lengthy doctor’s inspection of Carroll’s eye forced a delay before the ninth. When things eventually got back underway, it was a straight-up war and Carroll – who afterwards revealed he could not see due to damage over his eye – wrestled his way on top as the output of Vences dropped

The tenth, like much of the fight, was razor-tight once again and we went nervously to the cards.

A majority of the judges sided with Carroll with a pair of 97-93s over-ruling a 95-95 drawn card to once again put ‘King Kong’ into the world title frame.

The narrow but deserved win sees Carroll improve to 20(5)-2(0)-1 while an extremely disappointed Vences drops to 23(12)-3(0)-1.

With the mandatory position in his back pocket, Carroll in line for the winner of champion Roger Gutierrez’s upcoming defence versus Chris Colbert which will take place on a date to be confirmed.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie