By Thomas Gerbasi
When Tevin Farmer is asked how he’s doing a little over a week before he challenges for a world title for the first time on Saturday against Kenichi Ogawa, the spirited “I’m great!” response can startle a bit, but it’s understandable, knowing that after all he’s been through.
Back in July, Farmer was shot in his right hand while playing the role of a peacemaker in his attempt to disarm someone.
And now he’s finally on the doorstep of a life-changing bout in Las Vegas.
But that’s not why he’s so positive.
“Winning the title is going to be a blessing, I love it, that’s really what I want in my life,” Farmer said. “But I won’t let one thing determine whether I have a great day or not. Every day I wake up and I’m alive is a great day.”
It’s the attitude of someone who took the long road, not just in boxing, but in life, and many who do either don’t make it to where Farmer has, or don’t make it at all.
“Where I’m from in North Philly, young kids die every day, so to be 27 is a blessing, honestly,” he said. “And I appreciate that. You learn how to value the little things.”
So when he won 17 fights in a row and seemed on the verge of a crack at a world title, only to tear his bicep in his 18th straight win over Arturo Reyes in April and then get shot in the hand in July, he didn’t hang his head and think the Boxing Gods were conspiring against him. He simply healed up, went back into the gym and got ready for the next phone call. It’s what he’s done his whole career, refusing to let the setbacks get to him, and what he’s done his whole life, refusing to let his environment define his future.
“When you’re born into something, you don’t feel it and you don’t see it,” he said. “You adapt to it. I’ve been living in Jersey for five years. Now when I go to North Philly I can feel it. But when I was there, I couldn’t feel it, I couldn’t see it, it was just normal to me.”
And since it was normal to him, he never looked at boxing as a way out. It was just something to do, but not something he necessarily loved to do.
“I wasn’t born into boxing like other people,” Farmer said. “I didn’t start when I was five and boxing wasn’t all I did. I did everything. I went to nursing school, I played basketball, I played football, I did everything. Boxing was just another sport, that’s it.”
Ask him when he started to fall for the sport, he chuckles.
“I started to care for boxing, probably around 2013.”
At the dawn of that year, Farmer seemed to be on his way to journeyman status at best, as he was just 7-4-1 as a pro. But it was in 2013 that he began his 18-fight winning streak and battled his way into a fight for the vacant IBF junior lightweight crown.
“I knew I was skillful and talented, and I just wanted to be the best,” he said of his 2013 turnaround. “Of course there’s a lot of money in boxing, I knew that for a fact. And to do something that you’re good at and get paid for it, why not? And I knew if I was gonna do it, I was gonna be the best, so I just dedicated myself.”
Five years later, he has arrived, 12 rounds or less from putting a world championship belt around his waist. But he’s not changing anything around or putting undue pressure on himself in the days leading up to the most important weekend of his career.
“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” he said. “We train hard for every fight whether it’s a title fight or a debut. Same moves, same old attitude, whether I’m fighting the best guy or the worst guy.”
Is he excited, at least?
“It may not seem like it or feel like it, but I’m definitely excited,” Farmer laughs. “I knew I would be where I’m at today. I knew all it would take is a little faith and a little time. So it may not seem like it because this isn’t something that was given to me. I worked for this. I didn’t have 16 fights and fight for a title. I worked for this. It’s another fight, another sparring day for me. No pressure.”
If you talk to Famer, it’s like he’s already won. And he has in many ways before he even makes the walk to the ring. As for what happens when he faces Ogawa…
“That’s my belt. I already know that for a fact. If I can’t beat a guy like Ogawa – he can fight and I’m not taking nothing away from him – but if I’m at the level I say I’m at, if I can’t beat this guy, then I gotta hang it up.”