By Francisco Salazar
Nothing or no one was going to come between Tevin Farmer and realizing his goal of fighting for a world title belt.
Not Jose Pedraza. Not boxing politics. Not the three unbeaten fighters he faced and defeated since the Pedraza fight.
Not even taking a bullet in his hand about four months ago.
Farmer was not only fighting his way to a world title shot, but he was fighting for survival on the streets of West Philadelphia.
Through trial and tribulation, his journey through life and in the ring are mirror-images of one another. To Farmer, he would not have wanted any other way.
That should be celebrated, not mocked or made fun of. That is what people want to see, right? For the good guy to win. For the underdog to triumph.
Farmer will realize his dream tonight, when he squares off against Kenichi Ogawa for the vacant IBF junior lightweight title at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The 12 round bout will air live on HBO (10:20 p.m. ET/ 7:20 p.m. PT).
The 27-year-old Farmer (25-4-1, 5 knockouts) has had a phenomenal run since losing to then-unbeaten Jose Pedraza in October of 2012. Farmer took the fight on short notice and after the fight, his career had no direction.
Farmer was 7-4-1 and it looked like his career was going to end up as a journeymen, receiving and accepting fights on short notice.
Then he started to take boxing more seriously, training often and accepting fights against less-than-modest opposition. Farmer fought seven times in 2013.
Farmer's big break came in a nationally-televised fight against then-unbeaten Emanuel Gonzalez. Not only was Gonzalez favored to win, but some even wondered what round Gonzalez would win by knockout. The southpaw Farmer was aggressive in outboxing Gonzalez to win by decision.
Farmer again utilized a big platform, defeating then-unbeaten Angel Luna by decision on an ESPN 'Friday Night Fights' telecast in April of 2015. Less than four months later, Farmer broke down former world title challenger Daulis Prescott on HBO Latino telecast, winning by knockout in the eighth round.
Recently, Farmer scored another impressive victory, decisioning Ivan Redkach over 10 rounds on July 30 of last year.
His accomplishments have gone unnoticed. Farmer was ranked as high as number four by the WBC and is currently ranked number eight by the WBO.
Both Farmer and Ogawa are fighting for the vacant IBF title, which was vacated when Gervonta Davis failed to make weight for his title defense against Francisco Fonseca on Aug. 26. Ogawa and Farmer are ranked number four and five, respectively.
Just when Farmer looked like a world title shot was coming within reach (his last fight was on Apr. 29), Farmer was shot in the right hand during an altercation at a family function in Philadelphia on July 29. Farmer attempted to play peacemaker during which his brother was also shot. A bullet grazed Farmer's brother in the eye, but is on the mend.
Luckily, the bullet that went through Farmer's hand did not break any bone or tendons.
Through all that has happened, in and out of the ring, Farmer arrives to tonight.
Farmer has won his last 18 bouts, but Ogawa (22-1, 17 KOs) is in the same situation. The fighter from Tokyo, Japan has won his last 14 bouts, 11 of them by knockout.
Ogawa will have a reach and a two-inch height advantage tonight over Farmer.
Some in boxing favor Ogawa to defeat Farmer tonight, but that may be nothing new to Farmer to be the underdog. He has been the underdog in life and it seems like he feeds off of that.
Farmer has been trained over the last couple of years by Raul 'Chino' Rivas, one of the top young trainers on the East Coast, and the results and performances by Farmer in the ring speak for themselves.
Can that and Farmer's tenacity and ring acumen lead Farmer to win a world title belt tonight? After what he has went through up this point in his life, Farmer believes that capturing a belt will be the icing on top of a rocky journey.
From promoter Lou DiBella getting him fights and keeping him busy to Rivas helping Farmer revive his career, to Farmer's newfound dedication, Farmer believes everything was worth going through to fight for and win a belt.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, RingTV.com, and FightNights.com. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing