|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - October 15, 2018|
Story by John DiSanto
For years, when Tevin
Farmer woke up every morning, the first thought on his mind
was his goal to become a world champion. It was like an
instinct. It came before breakfast, before he put his feet
on the floor, and before he said his first words of the
day. It was automatic. In his mind, he visualized that goal
and saw himself with a championship belt wrapped around his
And for world champion Tevin Farmer, 26-4-1, 5 KOs, 1 NC, things are starting to change. With that belt in his possession, everything is new for him, and he needs new goals and new things to visualize. On Saturday night (October 20), for the first time, Tevin Farmer will enter a boxing ring as a world champion when he makes his first title defense against Belfast’s James Tennyson, 22-2, 18 KOs, at the TD Garden in Boston. The bout will be streamed live by DAZN.
His new championship belt is now like a permanent sidekick for the only Philly fighter to currently hold a title. On most days since becoming champ, Farmer has his IBF belt with him while training at TKO Fitness, in Cherry Hill, NJ. The shiny red and gold strap rests in its open case, on a table beside the boxing ring where Farmer hones his skills every day. It sits there as a reminder of how far he’s come and everything that is now at stake.
“It’s like having a new car,” Farmer said of his belt. “You just want it to be there. You just need to see it. It’s motivation.”
Mostly that’s just at the gym, however. Farmer claims that he doesn’t spend too much time staring at the belt while at home, but admits that there have been times.
“Not at home, really,” Farmer said. “It’s more of a gym thing, but it has happened before. I just stare at it like, Wow! I get caught in the moment.”
The challenge for every new champion is to adjust to his new role and to get down to the business of keeping his championship and his status atop his division. They say that it is tougher to keep the title than it is to win it, but Farmer believes that he is up to the task.
“You got to remember, I wasn’t handed the belt,” he said. “Most people get built up to the top, with easy fights. Then once they become champion, it’s like, ‘damn, I got to get on my game because the top dogs are going to be fighting me’. But for me, I was the other way around. I was always fighting great fighters. So, I always had that mindset.”
It is true that Farmer has always had a good work ethic. He stays in the gym, and on weight, even without a fight on his calendar. He’s been deadly serious about his career after an ordinary 7-4-1 start that appeared to cast him merely as local Philly fighter that might not get very far.
However, Farmer buckled down, and launched an 18-bout winning streak that ran five years and was only interrupted by a bad decision in his first shot at the title. That temporary “L” was eventually changed to a No Contest after his opponent failed a post-fight drug test. So, technically Farmer is still riding that undefeated streak.
Another boxing cliché says that a champion automatically gets better the moment he wins the belt. We will find out if this is true in Farmer case on Saturday night, but the new champ appears poised to validate that boxing old rule of thumb.
“I think that mentally, you just get better,” he said. “You know you’re a champion, so you get better mentally. It shows. They say when you become champion, you get 25% better. I can honestly say that’s the truth.”
“I feel like I always put the work in,” he continued. “I don’t feel like anything there has really changed, but I just feel much better mentally. No matter who I fought, I trained my best for them. So even at this point, being world champion, I’m going to be ready for whoever, like I was before I was champion.”
Farmer’s team sees improvement over the last two months, since his title win. Head trainer Raul “Chino” Rivas has been with him since the career turnaround and has observed the change in Tevin.
“He’s learning to be more mature in the ring - wiser, more patient,” Rivas said. “His IQ gets smarter. He just gets wiser and wiser for fighting. So overall, it’s been a blessing. Not only him becoming a world champion, but how much more he’s learning from becoming a world champion.”
“Bigger things are going to happen for him,” Rivas continued. “The first thing I see in him is happiness. Because all the hard work through all the years and all the obstacles he’s been up and down with, finally it paid off.”
“I told him, when you become a world champion you’ll see the difference,” Rivas said. “I told him, you’ll see. It’s hard for me to explain, but you’ll see how you’re going to grow in all aspects. Not only in the ring, but outside the ring, and in general in life. How to conduct yourself, your way of living. It’s going to change because you’ll just value yourself a lot more. You deserve to treat yourself to different things that at one time you were unable to do. Some of the things he’s doing now come with the full package.”
Farmer, the full package, will face James Tennyson, a relatively mysterious, little-known opponent, but one who Tevin insists he needs to be ready for.
“He’s a guy that’s going to come to fight,” Farmer said. “He should come to fight. That’s the only thing I’m concerned about. He’s going to come to fight. I wouldn’t say (he has) power. Everybody that they told me had power, when I got in there with them it was the total opposite. Maybe it’s just me. But from his knockout ratio, it’s safe to say that he has power. No disrespect, but it’s not (like) a knockout from the US.”
Will the new champion offer even more than he has in the past?
“My offense is becoming crazy,” Farmer said. “You’ll see. My offense is almost becoming better than my defense. If you look at the Dib fight, you’ll see that I was throwing a lot of combinations. Went to the body very well, even dropped him in the ninth round. In that fight, you can see the transition. Now it’s different. Now when I touch you, I’m going to try to hurt you. It’s mental. You got to remember that the experience that most fighters get in the amateurs, I didn’t get a chance to get. (He only had 16 amateur bouts.) I had to get it in the pros. So it took me a little longer, and now it’s starting to kick in. I’m dangerous right now. I’m at a championship level. My offense and my defense is going to be ugly. It’s not going to be nice.”
“He’s always been a very, very confident individual,” Rivas said of Farmer. “He knows he’s talented. I’m not trying to be arrogant, but I think it’s going to be too easy for him to defend the title. In my eyes, he knew all along he was a champion. He was a champion without a title, and it was just a matter of time. So, he conducted himself like a he was a champion already.”
For trainer Chino Rivas, Farmer is his second world champion. He also guided Camden’s Jason Sosa to the WBA junior lightweight title. So, in addition to Farmer, Chino himself has been validated by his newest champion’s success.
“Honestly, I don’t see it that way,” Rivas said. “Tevin always tells me, ‘you got to give yourself credit. You accomplished a lot. You took two guys that were at one time considered opponents, with really very little amateur backgrounds, and you not only turned us into world champions, but Jason went to China, won the title, and he had a very successful defense against a really good opposition’. Tevin went to Australia and dominated Billy Dib, no hesitation. Dominated him from the beginning, and now here we go, we’re going to defend the title.”
“So, I’m just more excited for him because I know what he’s going to do,” Rivas continued. “His focus is just amazing, the way he’s growing, and for me, it’s always fun with Tevin because, and I’ve been telling him this for years, I feel sorry for the opponent because it’s two against one. I don’t think there is a coaching duo stronger than him and I, when it comes down to our bond, our chemistry. So I believe that every time Tevin enters the ring against anybody, it’s going to be Tevin and me against one fighter. And the outcome is going to be better for us because it’s two against one.”
This is exactly the atmosphere you feel at one of Chino’s training camps. His group is close. They are clearly a loyal team, and everyone is after the same thing. They work hard, but they are all loose and obviously having fun.
“It is a family oriented business,” Rivas said. “If I don’t feel that you fit for the team, I will not let you come into this team. This is a team about loving each other, respecting each other. We help each other. We don’t criticize each other. I give directions. If they have different views, they tell me we could do this differently. We work together as a team. Yes, I am the head trainer. I am the chief, the one putting everything together, but I would not function without Rashiem Jefferson, Nicholas Rosario, and Anthony (Rodriguez). It’s a beautiful thing we have here. And I thank Alex (Barbosa of TKO Fitness), because he opened the doors to us. This is our home. They treat us like family. It’s just good for all of us.”
TKO Fitness, run by former pro boxer Alex Barbosa, has become a hotbed for Philly boxing, even though it is located on the other side of the Ben Franklin Bridge, less than 10 miles from Center City. The roster of established professional fighters working there has grown significantly in the past few years, and Farmer represents what every gym longs for, their first world champion.
Farmer vs. Tennyson is the first of a four-fight deal the champion has with DAZN. It is a contract that will hopefully keep Tevin busy and give him a chance to reach his peak as a fighting champion.
“God willing, I get past this fight, which I will, I already got another fight lined up,” Farmer said. “Stay busy, stay sharp, stay active. It don’t give you time to bull crap, to mess around out and about. You always have to be in the gym. You always got to be training, got to be ready for what’s next. I just think it’s good all the way around. DAZN is a big platform for boxing. The whole set up is great. And they pay you! That’s what I worked for.”
“He deserves it,” Rivas said of Farmer’s DAZN deal. “I never met such a humble individual who stays grounded and wants to continue success. Because his success is not about Tevin Farmer. His success is about his family, first and foremost, and then his team. He always sees himself last. He never makes himself a priority. That’s just who he is as an individual, and there are not too many human beings like that.”
“Canelo fights on DAZN,” Farmer said. “Tevin Farmer fights on DAZN. You got Anthony Joshua on DAZN. The new way of boxing is going to be streaming. A blind man can see that. Everybody ain’t going to be able to catch the fights on TV. Some people might have to work. They don’t have to record the fight now. Now you can go on the app. Why pay for all the channels when you can pay for the app? You can watch it where ever you at. You can be at a club. You can be at work. You can be out to dinner. You can be anywhere. You can turn the app on and watch a fight with great quality.”
Farmer’s talent as a pitchman is developing as fast as his fighting skills.
“We want to scare people,” Rivas said. “Every fight he gets better, and better, and better. In my eyes, a world champion is not considered a world champion until he gets his first defense. I’m a throwback kind of guy, and that’s something I was taught through the years. Then you can say, it was not a fluke. He is truly a world class fighter. And that’s why I can’t wait for October 20th. He gets to prove to the world how much better he’s going to look than when we fought before.”
“It’s going to big,” Farmer said. “I want everyone to tune into DAZN on October 20th to see me put on a show and do my thing. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve waited a long time, and now it’s time to go show the world. I got the opportunity to fight on the big platform, and I think I’ll take advantage of it. I asked for it. An excellent performance is what I’m going to give. Nothing less. An excellent performance every time. However the fight turns out, is how it turns out. As long as I’m victorious. Everything is big for me here on out. I got to do it big, or don’t do it at all.”
The next episode of Farmer’s binge-worthy big show is on Saturday night.