Story by John DiSanto – PhillyBoxngHistory.com
Photos by – Darryl Cobb Jr. – dcobbjr.com
When IBF junior lightweight champion Tevin Farmer, 28-4-1, 6 KOs, 1 NC, steps into the ring Friday night at the Liacouras Center to defend his title against Dublin’s Jono Carroll, 16-0-1, 3 KOs, it will be the first time that a Philly-based world champion has done so for sixteen years.
The last time was way back in 2003 when Bernard Hopkins stopped Morrade Hakkar in defense of his undisputed middleweight crown, in one of the last boxing events at the now-deceased Spectrum.
Since Hopkins, Philly has birthed three world champs, Steve Cunningham, Danny Garcia, and Tevin Farmer. Farmer is currently the City’s only belt holder.
Neither Cunningham nor Garcia had the opportunity to have a title bout in Philly while they were champions, despite having two title reigns each. Cunningham fought here twice after his title time at the top, and Garcia returned for a non-title bout while still the WBC welterweight champ.
However, Farmer, the Philly fighter of the moment, will accomplish the feat, which as it turns out, isn’t that common. The truth is, since the beginning of time, there have only been about fifteen occurrences when a Philadelphia champion has put their belt on the line in the City of Brotherly Love.
Therefore, the Philly fans must realize exactly what is happening on Friday night. After all, it might be a while before it happens again. The Liacouras Center is a big arena with a lot of seats available. That means all the local fans have a chance to be part of an important night.
And Tevin Farmer has another reason for you to be there.
“If this fight doesn’t sell out,” the champion said, “I’ll never fight in Philly again.”
Farmer won his title seven months ago with a points victory over Billy Dib in Australia. He then defended his championship in October at Boston’s TD Garden (TKO 5 James Tennyson), and at Madison Square Garden (W12 Francisco Fonseca) in December.
These three fights have raised Farmer’s profile considerably, and put him in line for some big bouts in the future. He’s a budding star, and Farmer thinks it’s time that people knew it and appreciated it, especially those from his hometown. So the champion has laid down the law.
“I’m telling you, if the fight don’t sell out, I’ll never fight here again,” Farmer said. Philadelphia can be a hating city.”
So, everyone better get their tickets!
Still, Farmer’s homecoming means something to him.
“I love it,” he said. The biggest thing is that people who aren’t usually able to make it to the fight, they get to come. That’s the biggest thing.”
And the fact that he’ll break that sixteen year slump of Philly champs defending at home, also made an impression on Farmer.
“Damn! I’m making history,” Farmer said. “I got to Instagram that. [He did.] I’m doing what don’t really get done that often. Everybody would love to fight for the title or defend their title in their hometown, but it don’t happen that often.”
Of course, it’s not always a boxer’s choice where he fights. But Farmer made it clear that he wanted to bring a title fight back home.
“There’s a lot of factors, but it’s a blessing for me to be able to make that happen,” he said.
The last time Farmer fought in Philly, it was at the Liacouras Center in 2017, more than a year before becoming champion. So on Friday, Philly will get there first live glimpse of the championship-version of Farmer.
He still seems to be the same guy. He has an air of extreme confidence, but that attitude pre-dates his crowning by at least a few years. He honestly feels he’s the best of his division and of his time. However when talking to him, you get the impression that he’s not so sure that everyone else knows this.
I think that’s where his insistence on a sellout comes in. Packing the house on Friday night is the validation, and the symbol of appreciation, that he urgently craves. Tevin had to be the prime believer in himself for so long – at times he was the only believer. And now he wants to know that the rest of the world – or at least his own city – believes in him.
Farmer claims that since becoming champion, his job hasn’t changed too much. He still trains every day, at the same gym, with the same team, and he approaches each fight as needed.
“Preparation varies,” he said. “It all depends on the fight.”
But there is one major difference since becoming champion – his level of activity. Before the belt, Farmer played the typical waiting game that contenders must endure, as their big opportunity creeps toward them at a snail’s pace. However as a champion, Farmer feels more in the driver’s seat.
“This is my fourth championship fight in seven and a half months,” Tevin said. “So, it’s different. I’m not going to train like a fighter that’s fighting once a year. I don’t have to. It’s never more pressure. What could be more pressure than a guy starting off like I started off? There can be no more pressure than that.”
So he punches the clock every day and does his job.
“It’s regular,” he said. “It’s regular to me. I’ve been through the toughest part of my career already. So everything now is just a breeze. It’s about winning fights, making history, and making money.”
It sounds like he’s ready for Jono Carroll, his latest challenger, and can’t imagine scenario where the Irish brawler beats him.
“He talks too much,” Farmer said of Carroll. “He’s going to get his ass kicked. I don’t know. He’s got a big mouth. I hope he’s tough. I’m looking for a challenge. I’m tired of going in there and beating people up.”
Farmer’s team is in agreement.
“He’s going to come to fight,” Farmer’s head trainer, Raul Rivas, said about the challenger. “He doesn’t hit that hard, so he makes up for it. He throws a lot of punches. He’s tough, but he’s never been in with anybody like Tevin Farmer. He’s never seen anyone like him. Tevin’s going to perform; he’s going to look good. I’m looking forward to it.”
“I just know that I’m going to come out with the victory’” Farmer added. “I know that. That’s what I do know. How’s it going to play out? I don’t know. We’re going to see. And after, I’m going to go have fun.”
Every fighter is reluctant to look beyond the challenge that is directly ahead of him. Whether it is superstition or simply solid discipline, it’s hard to get a name out of a fighter when talking about the opponent after this one. Farmer stuck to the script.
“There ain’t no particular fight right now,” he said. “I’m going to just keep doing what I do. Keep focusing. Keep fighting. Keep winning, and whoever I want to fight next, that’s who I’m going to fight. If I have a mandatory, then I’ll fight the mandatory. There’s no particular fight.”
The rest of the world can’t wait to see Farmer square off with WBA junior lightweight champion Gervonta Davis. But when you ask him about it, Farmer plays poker. However, there are hints that Davis might be in his radar.
“I don’t think (there is) nobody out there,” Farmer said about future opponents. “Except for the world champions. If I can get a world title fight, I would like that. But if I can’t, I don’t care. For me, another belt always helps.”
It’s safe to assume that the belt Farmer is talking about is the WBA strap currently wrapped around Davis’ waist.
Farmer faces Carrol on Friday night at the Liacouras Center. Tickets are selling well, but so far, it’s not a sellout. So Philly fight fans better come out. That is, if they want to see Tevin Farmer in the flesh ever again.
The fight, and the majority of the stacked under card, will also be streamed live by DAZN.
To read more about the Philly fight scene – past and present – visit www.phillyboxinghistory.com.