IBF JUNIOR LIGHTWEIGHT BELTHOLDER TEVIN FARMER: “WHOEVER WANTS THIS SMOKE CAN GET IT!”
CHERRY HILL, NJ — Tevin Farmer mingles with the kids in between sparring sessions at the TKO Gym during a weekend afternoon. The IBF junior lightweight champion carries a different aura of confidence. He doesn’t need to convince himself anymore that he belongs among the best. He knows it. He trains harder. He looks sharper.
And not every second is so vital that he can’t have some fun along the way, joking with the younger kids who were beginning to populate the gym as the Philadelphia southpaw is winding down.
Of all of the major beltholders today, Farmer (29-4-1, 6 knockouts) is very proud of the fact that he’s the most active. He’ll be defending the IBF 130-pound title for the fourth time inside of a year when he fights French southpaw Guillaume Frenois (41-1-1, 12 KOs) this Saturday at the College Park Center, in Arlington, Texas, on The DAZN (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT). Farmer-Frenois will serve as the co-feature of the super lightweight unification main attraction between WBO beltholder Maurice Hooker and WBC titlist Jose Carlos Ramirez.
In preparation for mandatory challenger Frenois, who many felt beat Jono Carroll in December, despite the fight ending in a draw, Farmer brought in a strength-and-conditioning coach. He’s been training three times a day. His focus is better. His diet improved.
“I feel like it’s been the perfect camp,” Farmer said. “This will be my fourth title defense. I would like to get in two more fights before the end of the year, but I’ll probably get one more. I still feel like I don’t get the credit I deserve. I think I’m being avoided by the other champs. They’re making excuses.
“I’m a fighter. I know. If you want a fight, you make it. Fighters hide too much behind promoters and TV deals, all of that stuff. Maybe I’m too old-school, but if you want to fight someone, and you’re the fighter, you press for the deal. No one wants to fight me. Whether you’re dealing with a team of people or not, it still comes down to the fighter.”
Farmer’s goal is to face all of the current 130-pound beltholders, aiming at WBC titlist Miguel Berchelt, The Ring’s No.1-rated fighter at 130, followed by WBA “super” beltholder Gervonta Davis, who’s also defending his title this Saturday, or a unification fight with WBO titlist Jamel Herring.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Farmer said. “I’m definitely going to fight Jojo Diaz before the year is over. Whoever wants this smoke, they can get it. Everyone says they want to fight. We’ll see. I’m here. I’m working harder and smarter than I ever have.”
Chino Rivas, Farmer’s trainer who’s one of the more underappreciated corner men in the country, says his fighter has even more levels he can reach.
“When Tevin became a world champion, that’s really made him hungrier, and he believes and he knows he’s a world champion and he demands respect,” Rivas said. “Tevin never cuts corners. Tevin and I always feed off each other. He’s looked awesome, and I’m telling you, Tevin has more to improve. He can become even better than he is now.
“What makes us work is we’ll share information. His improvement alone in a year’s time has been incredible. His timing and strength, his jab, his IQ, it’s all high. By the second or third round, he knows a fighter’s weakness. Frenois is tailor-made for Tevin.”
This will be Farmer’s last fight on his current contract with Eddie Hearn, Matchroom and the DAZN. Farmer likes the way he’s been treated by Hearn. But Farmer is in a stronger position than when the original deal was signed. He’s one of the world’s best 130-pounders.
“I’ve earned my stripes, so we’ll see what I deserve,” said Farmer, who’s recently made some real estate investments in the Philadelphia area. “I feel I’m in a good spot. We’ll talk to Eddie. He’s been good to me.”
Farmer saw Frenois fight once, against Carroll. Riding a 22-fight winning streak that dates back to October 2012, Farmer knows his B-side days are done.
“Frenois is a solid fighter,” Farmer said. “I just have to go in and do what I’m supposed to do. I’ve worked extra, extra hard for this fight. I’m a veteran. My weight is good. I’m around 138 a week out. I can fight at 135, if I wanted. But I want more at 130. Why should Berchelt or Davis be above me in The Ring ratings?
“I’m fighting more and I’m fighting better fighters. Berchelt has a name, but he’s old. I’m fighting hungry fighters. Davis should be No. 3 or No. 4, behind Andrew Cancio, the ‘regular’ WBA junior lightweight champ. Cancio is the real champ. I’ll fight a third time this year. I’ll fight Jojo Diaz.
“Everyone else is making excuses.”
Farmer always keeps his IBF world title belt nearby. It was home when he spoke to The Ring last weekend, but it’s usually with Farmer at the TKO Gym when he trains.
“I’m going to get more belts, the WBC, the WBO,” Farmer vowed. “I won’t sleep with any of them though. I’ll let the two belts sleep together and make another belt.”
Joseph Santoliquito is the President of the Boxing Writers Association of America and has written for The Ring/RingTV.com since 1997. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.