By John DiSanto – PhillyBoxingHistory.com
Philadelphian Tevin Farmer, 25-4-1, 5 KOs, 1 NC, has a chance to get it right this week when he faces Billy Dib, 43-4, 24 KOs, in a fight in Australia for the vacant International Boxing Federation (IBF) world junior lightweight championship. This will be Farmer’s second attempt at winning a world title after letting his first opportunity slip through his hands, thanks to a long layoff, bad scoring, two injuries, an opponent on performance enhancers, and his own entitled attitude that hampered his ability to get the job done last December.
That concoction of factors conspired to keep Farmer down among the pack of ordinary boxers, but on Saturday, he gets another chance to rise above the rest of the 130-pounders, and above all receive a rare second opportunity to prove what he is all about. However this time, he has to get it right. The bout with Dib comes on Friday, August 3.
Of course, all of us in Philly believe that Farmer should already be the IBF champ, after his controversial fight last December with Kenichi Ogawa. However, the 12-round split decision awarded to Ogawa that night was one of the worst calls in quite a while, and left Farmer beltless. That verdict was eventually changed to a No Contest when Ogawa tested positive for steroids, but the title remained vacant.
Despite most believing that Farmer had won the fight, Tevin’s performance still was a far cry from his usual impressive showing. Farmer, returning after two serious injuries and eight months of inactivity, was not himself and allowed Ogawa to keep the fight close enough to steal on the cards.
In that first title try, Farmer showed little of the flash and just a sampling of the skills he became known for in the 18-fight win streak that preceded the bout. Even more troubling was Farmer’s lack of urgency in a fight for all the marbles. Instead of shifting into high gear, Farmer fought as if the outcome of the bout – and the presentation of his title belt – were guaranteed to him, regardless of what he did in the ring. He would learn twelve rounds later that this was not the case.
It was a poor performance by Farmer. To be fair, it very well may have been the long layoff, or his less-than-perfectly healed arm and hand injuries, that made his showing lackluster. But Farmer still needed to do more to become champion that night. Overconfidence got him.
“People might have seen the last fight and thought that he didn’t do enough,” said Farmer’s trainer, Raul “Chino” Rivas. “But everyone thought he won the fight. I’m happy he’s getting another chance.”
In some ways, Ogawa did Farmer a favor by failing that drug test. Had he not, it might have been easy to deny Farmer another title shot. Second chances – even deserved ones – don’t always come.
“They might have said he didn’t deserve another fight,” Rivas said. “And just avoided him after that.”
To claim the title this time, Farmer must defeat Dib, a more experienced foe than Ogawa (and Farmer), and he’ll have to do it in Dib’s backyard. It is a tall task, but Farmer seems ready for the job.
“It’s going to happen,” Farmer said recently at TKO Fitness in Cherry Hill, NJ, where he trains daily. “No question about it. The title is mine on August 3rd.”
After a very ordinary career start, Farmer staged an extraordinary turnaround beginning about six years ago. He’s been on a roll ever since, growing into a contender and title challenger. Along the way, his self-assured demeanor blossomed steadily. That tremendous confidence has reached a new peak as he approaches the encounter with Dib. Further, December’s “robbery” has made him indignant and he seems driven to get what he feels belongs to him.
This reads as confidence, but to be honest, it troubled me slightly in my most recent visit to watch Farmer train. Seemingly nowhere in Farmer’s consciousness was there the slightest inkling that his sub-par performance against Ogawa was hurt by over confidence and his assumption that the title was definitely coming his way.
“I was coming back from two bad injuries,” Farmer said. “Both of them could have been career-ending. I hadn’t fought in a long time. The judges were against me. Plus the guy was on steroids.”
All of these points appear to be true. But it would have been more encouraging to hear that Farmer had learned from the experience and knew that he should have done more with his first big chance. I wanted to hear him say that HE wouldn’t let it happen again. I even double checked with him, asking if the injuries, the scoring, and such were the only reasons that he left Las Vegas without the IBF belt.
“No question about it,” Farmer said with certainty.
Confidence is a tricky thing. It is a critical component of a successful fighter, but it can sometimes be a veil to the truth, a trap that can allow for the repeating of previous mistakes. Still, it is hard not to feel positive about Farmer’s chances against Dib. At TKO Fitness, Tevin looked to be in magnificent shape as he neared the end of his stateside training camp. As he glided around the ring and speared the air, he looked like the perfect fighter.
“The condition he is in now is going to be the big difference in the fight,” Rivas said. “Last time, he wasn’t 100% recovered. He couldn’t throw his right hand without worrying about the injury. He had been out of the ring and he wasn’t 100%. Now, he’s ready. He can be more aggressive and he’s sitting down on his punches better than he ever did before.”
In addition to Dib, in this title fight Farmer will be facing that nagging uncertainty of how a visiting boxer will fare on the scorecards, on the other side of the Earth against a hometown fighter. That formula rarely goes well for the visitor. So, it might be best not to leave the result in the hands of the judges. However, Farmer is not really a puncher, with just 5 knockouts in 31 bouts. But such stats don’t even nick the confidence of the “American Idol”.
“Oh, it’s going to be a knockout,” he said. “I’m going to knock him out, you watch.”
Famer’s confidence is on point. His conditioning is on point. And somewhere down there, below that dense layer of confidence, Tevin must know that, this time, he truly has to seize the opportunity. He’s been working for this moment for a long time. As third chances are even rarer than second chances, on Saturday he has to get it right. He has to prove to himself and everyone else that he is a champion.
“I’m winning that title,” Farmer said. “Then what are we going to do when I come back to Philly?”
Win that title Tevin, and everything will be different. But you have to get it right this time. You have to win the fight – no conditions, no questions, and no excuses. It’s up to you to overcome every hurdle put before you. That is what true champions do, and this is your chance to do exactly that.
The fight will be broadcast live on the subscription app, ESPN+ on Friday morning.
To read more about the Philly fight scene, visit www.phillyboxinghistory.com.