Thursday, December 1, 2016

Q&A: Tevin Farmer

Junior lightweight contender Tevin Farmer returns to the ring on Friday to conclude what has been a busy and eventful 2016. Notching the biggest win of his career in July against Ivan Redkach, Farmer has announced his presence as one of the top fighters in a blossoming division. Friday's bout against Dardan Zenunaj will be of the stay-busy variety but unlike most top fighters of this era, Farmer insists on remaining active. Zenunaj will be Farmer's fourth fight of the year.

Farmer, a southpaw from Philadelphia, didn't start boxing until he was 19. After only 16 amateur fights, he turned pro in 2011. His beginnings in the paid ranks had several rocky moments. At one point, he was just 7-4-1. After his last defeat in 2012 to now-junior lightweight titlist Jose Pedraza, Farmer rededicated himself to boxing and the results have been impressive, with 16 consecutive victories. Now in the prime boxing age of 26, his record currently stands at 23-4-1. 

Since aligning himself with trainers Raul "Chino" Rivas and Rashiem Jefferson, Farmer has continued to develop in the ring technically and he believes that he's a much stronger fighter mentally than he was earlier in his career. Frequent sparring with stablemate and 130-lb. titlist Jason Sosa hasn't hurt either as Farmer has learned some of the finer points of inside fighting from the hard-charging boxer from Camden. Farmer's on the cusp of a title shot and should he keep on his winning ways, big things could be in store for him in 2017.

In the following interview, Farmer talks about his maturation in the ring, what he's learned from his trainers and how his relationship with Sosa has helped both fighters. He also admits some disappointment about the state of boxing in that very few top fighters seem interested in taking on worthy opponents. Despite the frustrating politics found in contemporary boxing, Farmer maintains optimism regarding his future, having full confidence in his abilities and the strength of his team.  

Interview by Adam Abramowitz
This interview has been edited and condensed.

Tevin, this will be your fourth fight this year, what’s the importance for you of staying active?

Staying sharp is the key for me. The more a fighter fights, and specifically the more I fight, the sharper I am. The better conditioned I am the more I can stay ready for the big fights in the future. 

What type of guidance has Lou DiBella, your promoter, given you in terms of staying active? Has he been supportive of you staying active? 

Lou’s paying for the fight. He’s absolutely supportive. I just told him how I felt. I’m not making crazy money but the time will come for that. Right now it involves me staying active and I’m not just going to sit out for money reasons.  

On Friday, you’re facing Dardan Zenunaj. It’s a stay-busy fight. What would be a successful night for you?

For one, I want to get the victory. That’s the key. If I can get the victory, that’s O.K., and doing it in a spectacular way. I’m looking to showcase power. A lot of people underestimate my power but if you look at Ivan Redkach fight, he couldn’t stay on the inside with me and he was supposed to be the bigger, stronger fighter. But he couldn’t stay in there. My style didn’t allow him to do the things he wanted to do. 

We’re working on slowing down a little more, sitting down on our shots a little more. A lot of people that know boxing, they’d say that Tevin Farmer is a puncher-boxer. 

Have you had a chance to speak with Lou about some possible opportunities for you next year?

No. It’s really hard. Nobody wants to fight a Tevin Farmer. Nobody wants to lose to him. Nobody wants to fight a tough fight. That’s what boxing’s laughing at. I wish I could say it better but I really can’t because nobody wants to fight anybody else right now. I’m trying to set an example for the boxing world. I’ve never turned down a fight. Or, I’m calling out the big names. If anybody offers me a fight, I say c’mon. I’d love to fight a big name but it’s not happening right now. If a fighter really has confidence in himself, he doesn’t care who he fights. It’s the ones that aren’t confident in themselves that pick-and-choose who they want to fight. 

One of my favorite weight classes in boxing is the junior lightweight division. There are a lot of knockout artists and some very good boxers. Who are some fighters in the division that you have your eye on? Who would you like to fight in a perfect world?

Well, I’ve called out every fighter in my division and I haven’t really gotten a response. Nobody wants to take the fight with me. So I’m not going to waste my breath saying who I’d like to fight or who I don’t because I know for a fact it’s not going to happen. And anybody that follows me knows that I’d fight anybody that they’d put in front of me. But the question is: are they willing to fight me? 

Another fighter in the 130-lb. division is your stablemate, Jason Sosa. You went over to Monte Carlo to watch his fight against Stephen Smith and stay in training camp with your team. What can you tell me about that experience?

Oh man, it was a great experience. I got to see something totally different. I went over there, met new people. We worked hard. It was a great atmosphere. I got to see how business is done. I got to see a lot of different things. It was a special moment for me. 

Sosa-Smith was a very good fight with Sosa earning the unanimous decision over Smith. What were your impressions of that fight and did you think that Sosa would get the win at the end?

Oh yeah, absolutely. I think it was a hell of a fight. I think if it was on [American] TV, it probably would get nominated for fight of the year. Stephen Smith came to fight but Sosa was more of a dog that day. He was hungrier. He landed cleaner shots.  Sosa showed a lot in the fight. I actually think Stephen Smith hurt him but you couldn’t even tell. Sosa showed he could box a little bit. He even showed some good defense. He showed a lot.

Do you spar with Jason?

Oh yeah, we just sparred yesterday [last Thursday]. 

I wanted to ask you about your trainer, Raul “Chino” Rivas. I read an old interview of yours where you said that he quadrupled your skill level. What did you mean by that? 

Raul Rivas and Rashiem Jefferson. There are two of them. A lot of people leave one out but it’s a team. Both of them deserve credit and the both play a big part in getting the best out of me in different areas.

Specifically, how have you seen improvement since you’ve been with Rivas and Jefferson?

I always had the skills but they brought the skills out of me. Mentally was the key. The mental side and conditioning. They were able to tell me and show me... Most fighters are good but they’re not good mentally. They were able to build me mentally and have me believe that I could beat any fighter in the world. I can outbox anybody in the world. I can fight with anybody in the world. My conditioning is amazing. When I’m tired, I keep going. Back in the day, I could fight but mentally I wasn’t there. I would get tired and then I just wouldn’t fight. Now, I rarely get tired, or, if I do, you wouldn’t know because I’m mentally built for it. 

You started your career off at 7-4-1 and you talked about how after the Jose Pedraza fight, which you took on short notice and lost, that you rededicated yourself to the sport. After that moment, what changed? How did you go about your career in a different way?

I wasn’t really taking it serious. I didn’t have the right team yet. I think I took the fight on three days’ notice. And even on three days’ notice, I still went the full eight [rounds]. And, on top of that, I beat him the first two-and-a-half-rounds. I spanked him. Then, I got tired and he just took over – what he was supposed to do.  Even back then, if I had a full training camp, I would’ve beat him, even with not knowing anything. 

Pedraza is a champion now. Would you be willing to face him in a re-match? 

That would be too easy. Yeah, he told me... He and my trainer told me that he’s not fighting me.

I’ve noticed from watching some of your fights that in addition to your hand speed and defensive skills, you’re also very strong on the inside. Have you always been comfortable with inside fighting or is it something that has come to you more over the years?

No. I never could fight on the inside earlier in my career. But over the years, “Chino” built that. This is where “Chino” played a part in it. He built me to fight in that style, sparring with guys like Jason Sosa and a lot of strong fighters. Sometimes when we spar, we do nothing but work on the inside. And it’s so good that I’m a monster on the inside now. That’s where "Chino" comes in at. When it comes to boxing, that’s where Rashiem comes in. And when it comes to my IQ, that’s where we all come in at. So we all play a different role in me being what I am today. 

And Jason Sosa, as far as my inside game, that’s one of the guys that’s helped me build my inside game. He helped me mentally, knowing that if I could take his shots I could take anybody’s shots. He helped me with a lot of things, and vice versa. I think I’ve definitely helped him as a boxer. 

One of the big fights in your career happened earlier this year in the Barclays Center against Ivan Redkach. A number of boxing observers thought that Redkach would be a very good test to see where you were at that stage of your career. You wound up winning a wide unanimous decision. What are your thoughts on that performance?

I trained a month for that fight. I was training for another opponent in June so I was in camp. And Sosa and I were already banging out 10, 12 rounds in camp back in May. So I was ready and prepared to go. That performance, I grade it a ‘B.” I haven’t really brought out my “A” game yet. No fighter has brought it out of me yet. If I would’ve stopped him it would’ve been an “A” for sure. I do think I could’ve stopped him but he came into the fight overweight. I think those extra pounds held him up. 

You know, I’m still learning as well. The more these guys wait to fight me, the harder it’s going to get. They think that avoiding me now is the best thing to do. But avoiding me now is the worst thing they could do because I’m still getting better. Remember, just 16 amateur fights. Started out at 19. Only been boxing for seven years. And I already have the experience. What do I have…27, 28 fights? I’m already fighting with experience. It’s going to get harder and harder for these guys. 

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
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