The footsteps grew louder. Slowly, steadily, he marched towards the ring set down in Manchester Arena. No, he wasn’t shackled or bound by the psychological pain of being a freak show, nor was he being carted out into the public advertised as the 8th wonder of the world. Instead, as he grinned and flexed, laughed and screamed atop the entrance ramp, the 5 foot 7 inches frame of a man draped in black and gold signified one thing – King Kong was here.
Unlike the scripts of Hollywood, southpaw ‘King Kong’ Jono Carroll had not been captured by an American TV crew hoping to profit off this unique primate via public exhibitions. Instead, the Irishman had wilfully transported himself from the shamrock shores of the Republic of Ireland deep into the Manchester jungle. A devilish grin etched on his face as Carroll charged into England’s Northern heart to commence hunting season. He had fallen short in his previous title tilt against then IBF champion Tevin Farmer, whose defensive acuity dealt Carroll his lone loss in a spirited and competitive scrap. ‘King Kong’ hoped that feasting on the man opposite him would reignite his ascension up the super-featherweight rankings and bring his nose closer to sniffing championship gold. Across him stalked Scott Quigg, the pride of Manchester whose residence in Bury was merely 15 or so minutes away from the Arena’s hallowed doors.
The former WBA World featherweight champion opted to move up a division for this clash and was coming off a significant layoff – he was last seen in March 2018, trekking to hell and back with Oscar Valdez.
The ink on the paper called this a genuine 50/50 clash. Carroll needed a big win to reassert his title aspirations. Quigg yearned for one final taste of glory amidst the twilight of his career. One man was on the come up, the other on the way out. The pair were bonded by sheer distaste for the other, evident by a scuffle at the weigh in. This was England V Ireland, 2 proud nations with proud sporting legacies. As both men circled each other intently, the squared circled slowly morphed into Skull Island.
The bell rang and the opening 3 minutes would define the tenor of the bout. Carroll came bursting out of the blocks and demonstrated an entirely different dimension to his skillset. Going toe to toe with brute strength was the pre-fight expectation. Instead, the hirsute gorilla dipped, dived and dodged out of Quigg’s flailing attacks and fired back with stiff one-two’s, right uppercuts, hooks to the liver and straight lefts to the body. The handspeed was evident. The accuracy was tremendous. The defence was sublime.
The pro-Quigg crowd refused to lower their volume, yelling in unison “there’s only one Scott Quigg” in conjunction with sage pieces of advice such as “come on Quigg” and “f**king hit him”. Quigg’s backers retained belief that the Bury native’s championship experience and pedigree would see him pin down Carroll, that he would eventually catch and overwhelm this deceptively fleet footed beast.
But it’s the hope that kills you. As the bell rang for the 7th round, Scott Quigg resembled a man devoid of any ideas. Broken. Lost. Clueless. He floundered away and had little success landing his patented overhand right bomb. If the opening stanzas hadn’t made it ostensible, it was now – Carroll had wrapped Quigg by his meaty, hairy, fleshy paws and had spent all evening playing with his food. Poking it, peeling it, taking a bite here and there, admiring the palatability of the dish he had voraciously consumed. How dare this mere mortal, even with the credentials of being a former world champion, pick a fight with King Kong.
The soundtrack of the battle also reflected what was transpiring in the ring. The Carroll crowd had been virtually non-existent all evening until one voice yelled “Let’s go Jono”. Then it became two, then three and suddenly, a mass horde of voices to my back right burst into life and drowned the vocal chords of every Quigg supporter in the building. The Carroll army had finally found life, their passion lustily enjoying the savage artistry which their eyes had become a witness to.
Carroll heard that soundtrack change too and responded in kind. Having had enough of playing with his food, he pressed for the kill in the 11th frame. Carroll rocked Quigg and continued to batter him with combinations against the oak pine ring posts as the rest of the kingdom watched aghast. Quigg’s trainer Joe Gallagher, who had watched in panic the downfall of his charge, threw in the towel.
Time momentarily froze. The white flag made its slow descent before collapsing at the feet of the gorilla. Carroll knew before it landed, as he stepped back from Quigg’s devoured corpse, raised his arms mid-air and roared in defiance.
‘King Kong’ Carroll had converted a 50/50 clash into a one sided, painful yet masterful exhibition of his own. King Kong wasn’t to be shunted on Broadway this time – Quigg was. Carl Frampton broke Scott Quigg’s jaw – but couldn’t finish him. Oscar Valdez broke Scott Quigg’s nose – but couldn’t finish him. Jono Carroll broke Scott Quigg’s will – and finished him. This was Carroll’s 4th knockout victory in 20 fights.
The Irishman pounded his chest in delight at his latest conquest and reaffirmed in the post-fight interview that although he had looked up to Quigg growing up, it was his time now. Carroll had successfully attained professional retribution and perhaps even on a personal level too. He has quite often been derided for being a pale imitation of UFC superstar Conor McGregor, dismissed for possessing an audacious personality without the credentials to back him up. And perhaps, even the most ardent and pedant of critics would rifle that Carroll shares more than just his nationality with McGregor. McGregor sports a tattooed gorilla across his chest. Carroll is nicknamed King Kong. But while McGregor continues his quest to reassert himself as the king of his jungle, Carroll roared and showed on this night that he was his own man, his own personality, his own beast.
As for Scott Quigg, where he goes next can be best summed up what I saw in front of me. A forlorn Eddie Hearn (below, right, in Quigg dressing room post-loss) walked over to Sky Sports head honcho Adam Smith and Matthew Macklin at the commentary table and gesticulated in anger. “He had nothing, absolutely nothing” he repeated, before heading out to the post fight press conference.
I asked Adam Smith before he too exited the arena “Adam what did you think of the fight?”
“Well,” Smith told me, ‘it went on for far too long, it should have been stopped at least 2 rounds earlier. I think this is the end for him.”
He thinks so too, it seems. (Quigg posted to his Instagram account after the loss, see below.)
If the bow and exit from the stage stands, then thank you Scott Quigg for the memories.
He may not have survived Kong’s colossal paws but he was always a professional in victory and defeat and one of the sport’s most disciplined of practitioners. The sport will miss his professionalism.