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Super Featherweight Champ Tevin Farmer is Proof it’s Never Too Late to be Great

Bernard Fernandez




The story of Tevin Farmer’s career – his whole life, really – is printed in black letters on the front of his white T-shirt. The three-word message of hope it conveys, Never Too Late, applies to the late-blooming IBF super featherweight champion, of course, but it could apply to anyone who’s ever been rejected, disrespected, kicked when they’re down or told they’re not good enough to ever amount to anything.

Farmer (28-4-1, 6 KOs), who defends his 130-pound title against Ireland’s Jono Carroll (16-0-1, 3 KOs) in the DAZN-streamed main event Friday night at Philadelphia’s Liacouras Center, now knows what it’s like to be on top and it’s clear he enjoys the view. But his memories of the bad old days, which weren’t so very long ago, are still fresh enough to keep him from ever making the mistake of believing that the good times will last forever.

“I’m Never Too Late,” Farmer, from the hardscrabble North Philly neighborhood that has spawned so many great and might-have-been great fighters, said after a brief workout session at the Everybody Fights Gym on Tuesday afternoon that mostly served as a meet-and-greet with the media. “That’s what I stand for. That’s my slogan.”

Farmer’s slogan of choice is on the front, his autograph printed on the back of T-shirts that will be available to the public beginning on March 15, the day before he swaps punches with fellow southpaw Carroll, the IBF’s No. 4 super featherweight contender. Sales of the shirts in Farmer’s hometown and its surrounding areas aren’t apt to result in the same sort of mad rush by Phillies fans to purchase No. 3 jerseys that marked the team’s signing of high-priced free agent Bryce Harper, but he figures if somebody wants something bad enough and long enough, anything is possible.

“What I stand for is not only boxing,” the 28-year-old Farmer continued. “It could be for anything or anybody. You been in jail, or had a bad start in your career or life? You’re older, you’re 40, you ain’t where you want to be? Well, it’s never too late to make things right.

“I got my opportunity and I took advantage. That’s what can happen in life. It’s all about opportunity and timing. When your time comes, you got to take advantage because you never know if or when it’s gonna come again. Where I’m from, we face a lot of obstacles. That was nothing I wasn’t used to. I had a horrible start to my career. But I knew if I could get over that hump, I could get over anything. And you know what? I’m happy I went through that. It just made me better. Everything happens for a reason.

“I can’t complain or cry about it because what’s done is done. You got to move forward. That’s it. I’m blessed to have that mentality. I’m saying that like it’s really easy; I know it’s not easy. You got to build yourself up mentally to make it easy.”

Farmer’s tale of multiple travails faced and overcome would be fairly standard if all that it involved was the halting start of a pro career that saw him go 4-3-1 and be regarded, if he was regarded at all, as an “opponent.” He had a certain amount of natural talent, that much was obvious, but Farmer – who didn’t start boxing until he was 19 — was being paired with more experienced fighters for short money, a dead-end street from which there often is no escape to something better. Worse, Farmer was beginning to think of himself as a perpetual victim of circumstance, which caused him to do something he would never do today: take shortcuts in training because, hey, once you’re designated for the scrap heap, why dare to believe you can rise above all the negative perceptions?

But early defeats were not the worst of it. In March 2017 he nearly drowned while vacationing in Puerto Rico. A month later, he tore his right biceps, which required surgery, taking much of the luster off the 10-round unanimous decision he scored over Arturo Santos while basically fighting with one good arm. And if all that weren’t enough, in July he was shot through his right hand and was told by a doctor that it was inadvisable that he ever fight again.

The tsunami of misfortune in and out of the ring was compounded when a refocused and fully committed Farmer, who had begun to live the slogan he would turn into a personal mantra, took on Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa for the vacant IBF super featherweight title in Las Vegas on Dec. 9, 2017. The split decision awarded Ogawa was roundly criticized as a great injustice, still another slap to Farmer’s face and an outcome that might have crushed the spirit of a less resilient sort. It hardly seems to matter that the disputed victory for Ogawa was changed to a no-contest after he failed a drug test.

Promoter Lou DiBella, who by that time had taken a flier on Farmer in much the same way that a racetrack bettor plunks money down on a longshot he has a good feeling about, marvels at the way the recent addition to his stable of fighters stared down more disappointment with the same positive attitude that suggested he would again bear down and find a way to overcome.

“I love this kid,” DiBella said of Farmer. “He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever worked with. He has an incredible never-say-die attitude. I would never have believed in Tevin if he hadn’t believed so much in himself.”

Farmer didn’t have to wait long for a chance to make amends for the Ogawa debacle. He journeyed to Sydney, Australia, to take on popular Aussie Billy Dib for the IBF title Ogawa had been obliged to vacate. This time there would be no controversy as Farmer won a one-sided unanimous decision, by scores of 120-107, 119-108 and 118-109. Beaten in his home country from Sydney to Melbourne, Dib promptly announced his retirement.

After successful defenses against James Tennyson (KO5) and Francisco Fonseca (UD12), Farmer again will attempt to hold onto the world title he so cherishes against fellow lefthander Carroll, who claims he will have greater crowd support than the Philly fighter on a St. Patrick’s Day weekend card that is liberally dotted with Irish fighters, most notably 2012 Olympic gold medalist Katie Taylor (12-0, 5 KOs), the women’s WBA and IBF  lightweight champion who takes on WBO titlist Rose Volante (14-0, 8 KOs) of Brazil in a unification matchup.

Carroll, whose black beard extends nearly down to his chest and might require a trim before he is allowed into the ring, claims to be unimpressed by Farmer’s inspirational back story or his overwhelming favoritism.

“I feel very confident about this fight,” Carroll said. “Tevin Farmer is a great champion but I’m ready to take that belt off him and be a great champion myself. I want to be Ireland’s next superstar. Winning this fight is what I need to do, and it’s exactly what I will do.”

Farmer smiles at Carroll’s brashness and expressions of confidence. He knows what it’s like to be the underdog, going into another fighter’s backyard to do what a lot of people say can’t be done. But now that he’s reversed that role, he has no intention of switching back again.

“Everybody’s gunning for him,” DiBella said of Farmer-the-target. “He represents their Super Bowl. They’re where he was a year and a half ago, and he knows it.”

So, does Farmer worry that Carroll will go all Never Too Late himself and pull off the upset?

“He can’t beat me, no way, shape or form,” Farmer said. “He’s no competition. I’m just hoping he comes in the best shape possible and gives me a good fight ’cause I’m beating guys too easy and I’m able to get back in the ring two months later. I want to be tested. I called all the champs (other titleholders at 130 are the WBC’s Miguel Berchelt, WBA’s Gervonta Davis and WBO’s Masayuki Ito) and I can’t get a fight with them, so I got to fight the people that’s next.”

Asked what it’s like to now be swimming with the sharks, a brimming-with-confidence Farmer said, “I am the shark.”

What he is, without question, is the busiest world champion in some time, the Carroll bout being his third title contest in four months. Nor is that hectic schedule apt to subside any time soon; Farmer says he hopes to fight six times in 2019, and DiBella and co-promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport hope to provide him with a steady stream of challengers.

Interestingly, Farmer has never heard of another Philly guy, Freddie Pendleton, who traveled a similarly bumpy road from non-relevance to a world title. “Fearless” Freddie was a piddling 12-12-1 through the first 25 fights of his pro career, but he drew the attention of millionaire manager Edward Gersh and he continued to persevere until he won the vacant IBF lightweight title by outpointing Tracy Spann on Jan. 10, 1993.

“I should think there’s a lot of fighters like that,” Hearn said of Pendleton and the more accomplished Farmer, gifted fighters who needed to catch the kind of break that doesn’t always come along. “When Tevin started out, he wasn’t quite the fighter that he turned out to be, but he learned from those early losses and was clever enough to adapt. He obviously had natural ability. It’s really about mindset. His mindset now is phenomenal. A lot of fighters, if they went through what he went through, would have just packed it in or settled for being a journeyman.  But Tevin knew he had more to give, and the turnaround has been massive.”

Another fact of the Tevin Farmer story is that, well, it’s such a great story. As is the case with Matchroom America stablemate Daniel “Miracle Man” Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs), the IBF middleweight champion who  overcame cancer and takes on WBA/WBC titlist Canelo Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 KOs) on May 4 in Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, Farmer is a survivor who fans find it easy to root for.

“He has a brilliant story and it’s going to get better,” Hearn said. “He’s just scratching the surface right now, as far as where he can be and where he’s going to be. I’m very excited about him. I think he’s an outstanding fighter.”

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Chris Arreola is Back!

Ted Sares



Chris Arreola

Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola is an emotional and very likable guy. Over the course of his career, there have been ups and downs providing the grist for a compelling story if one were inclined to write it. He’ll kiss a beaten opponent (Joey Abell) or cry if beaten (Vitali Klitschko) and his language during a post-fight interview is, well it’s special.

After his corner stopped the fight following the 10th round with Klitschko, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he thanked the fans (as is his wont) and later, while being interviewed in the ring, said  “F–k that, I’m coming back.”

It was his first loss after 26 straight wins out of the professional gate. For that “terrible” indiscretion, he was punished by the selectively politically correct World Boxing Council. WBC president José Sulaimán proposed a six months ban for vulgar language and the ban was approved by the WBC Board of Governors.

Arreola, who rarely uses filters, was brutally candid again after his first round KO over Erik Molina in 2012. The Nightmare cut loose on Don King, Molina’s promoter, calling him a “f—ing a–hole and a racist,” causing Showtime’s Jim Gray to  terminate the post-fight interview forthwith. “Honestly Don King called me a wetback, and other Mexicans,” Arreola told “That’s a strong word. It’s like me dropping N bombs. You don’t say things like that.”

No ban this time.

Arreola’s weight varies but when he is fit and ready (and under 250), he is a very dangerous heavyweight, especially in the early rounds. Once he has his opponent hurt, there are few boxers who can close as well as this Southern California Mexican American tough guy who was an accomplished amateur fighter and knows his way around the ring.

His level of opposition has been stiff. In fact, his five losses have been to fighters who have held world titles at one time or another. Bermane Stiverne had Chris’s number and beat him twice—the second time by way of a nasty knockout. However, he has a number of solid wins over the likes of Malcom Tann, Chazz Witherspoon, Travis Walker, Jameel McCline, Brian Minto, Curtis Harper –yes, that Curtis Harper who gave Chris all he could handle — and many others who came in with fine records. His first round blowout of once promising Seth Mitchell was quintessential Arreola. Mitchell retired after the fight.

In July 2016, The Nightmare was stopped by Deontay Wilder in yet another title bid but he did not disgrace himself. He then took off for over two years to assess whether he wanted to continue. Boxing fans pretty much forgot about him. Few took notice when he came back to stop the very stoppable Maurenzo Smith on the Wilder-Fury undercard on Dec. 1 of last year.

Fast Forward

Last weekend, on the undercard of the huge Errol Spence Jr. vs. Mikey Garcia PPV fight in Dallas, “The Nightmare” was matched against unbeaten but unheralded Jean Pierre Augustin (17-0-1).

Chris, now 38, came in at a svelte 237 pounds and looked fit and ready to go. The weary look on Augustin’s face during the announcement said it all. True to form, Arreola was in blowout mode and stopped the Haitian who simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Arreola wobbled Augustin with a brutally hard jab that connected flush to his face in the third round. After more heavy shots, a bloodied Augustin went down and upon getting up, was battered until the referee halted matters. Chris closed things like he had done on so many other occasions and in front of millions of fans tuning in around the world.

With a female interviewer, the elated “Nightmare” was polite during the post-fight ceremonies and, holding his daughter, signaled that he is BACK! That’s good news for boxing fans because when Chris Arreola is fit and focused, he is entertaining and very competitive.

With a current record of 38-5-1 with 2 ND (the “no-contests” resulting from Chris‘s apparent affinity for non-medicinal marijuana), a fight with someone like Adam Kownacki would be a boxing fan’s dream.

Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active power lifters and Strongman competitors and plans to compete in at least three events in 2019. He is a lifetime member of Ring 10, and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA).

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Nobody Wants to Fight Dillian Whyte

Kelsey McCarson



Dillian Whyte

Dillian Whyte is one of the most dangerous fighters in the world. The 30-year-old is a former British heavyweight titleholder, a former kickboxing prodigy and an undefeated mixed martial artist. Overall, Whyte’s professional fighting record is a sterling 46-2. He’s 25-1 as a boxer, 20-1 as a K1 kickboxer and 1-0 as an MMA fighter.

So while the battle rages on between various television networks and streaming platforms over securing the top talent in the heavyweight division, one that includes Tyson Fury signing a multi-fight deal with ESPN and Deontay Wilder reportedly mulling over his future with PBC, perhaps something just as important right now is that the single most dangerous and deserved heavyweight contender in the world remains without a dance partner for his next fight.

Never mind Whyte being the No. 1 ranked contender by the World Boxing Council. That sanctioning body instead deemed Dominic Breazeale the mandatory challenger to Wilder’s WBC title after the potential rematch between Wilder and Fury fell by the wayside.

Here’s all that needs to be said about that grift. Breazeale only had to defeat Eric Molina to get his mandatory title shot while the WBC wanted Whyte to face Cuban southpaw Luis Ortiz, one of the top heavyweights in the sport.

And nobody seems to care that Whyte gave unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua the toughest test of his career (this side of Wladimir Klitschko anyway), when the two squared off in 2015 for the British and Commonwealth titles. Despite the obvious talent gap between the two fighters, Whyte gave the young Joshua just about all the former Olympic champion could handle in a seven-round war.

To hear Whyte tell the story, promoter Eddie Hearn must have intentionally lowballed Whyte for the proposed 2019 rematch in order to ensure Joshua could invade America on June 1 against the likely less dangerous Jarrell Miller. That makes sense for Joshua from a monetary perspective, but it doesn’t do the same in terms of true competitiveness.

According to various reports, Whyte is currently considering a multi-fight deal to appear on ESPN, a move that would give the British battler a path to facing Fury who some consider the lineal heavyweight champion. Fury recently signed a multi-fight deal to be co-promoted by Bob Arum for appearances on the U.S.-based television network ESPN. It’s the move that shelved a potential Wilder rematch and also opened up a huge can of worms in regards to what kinds of fights Fury might actually be able to secure. Currently, the Top Rank-promoted stable of heavyweights is best characterized by fighters who don’t really move the needle in regards to title challenges, fighters like Oscar Rivas, Bryant Jennings and Kubrat Pulev.

Overall, though, the main problem about the heavyweight landscape is that there are three heavyweights who all have a claim to being heavyweight champion. IBF, WBA and WBO champion Joshua is promoted by Hearn and exclusive to DAZN. WBC champ Wilder is attached to the PBC whose television partnerships include Showtime and Fox. Fury is set to embark on his own ESPN crusade. Long story short, these guys probably aren’t fighting each other anytime soon.

Worse is that while all three men are in desperate need of viable opponents, none have seemed all that interested in tussling with Whyte.

It’s no wonder. As good as Whyte has been over the course of his 7-year professional boxing career, the scariest thing about the fighter is that he always seems to be getting better. In his last two fights, Whyte outfought talented former titleholder Joseph Parker and knocked out gritty UK heavyweight Dereck Chisora. In defeating Parker, Whyte was facing someone absolutely in need of a win to maintain his status among heavyweight contenders. In beating Chisora, Whyte was in tough against an opponent he had only defeated by split-decision two years prior. Both wins illustrate just how far Whyte has come as a professional prizefighter.

As it stands, Whyte is the clear top contender among all heavyweights, especially among those who have not yet been granted a shot at a world title. He’s ranked No. 4 behind Joshua, Fury and Wilder by The Ring magazine and the same by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

The only question that remains is which title claimant will prove the toughest holdout. Whyte’s ultimate choice, in whether to stick with promoter Hearn on DAZN, link up with Arum and ESPN or continue playing the WBC shell game, will probably end up being tied to which path gets him the title shot that he so desperately craves first.

And it absolutely should happen. It’s one thing to crave title opportunities and another to have earned them. Whyte’s done both now, and it’s time for boxing fans and the media to take notice. Better yet, it’s time for Joshua, Fury and Wilder to pit themselves against their most dangerous competition. Since they’re not facing each other, Whyte become the next logical choice for any or all of them.

Because Dillian Whyte is one of the best heavyweight boxers in the world, and he’s done enough by now to warrant the chance to prove it.

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The Hauser Report: St. Patrick’s Day at Madison Square Garden

Thomas Hauser




Boxing’s three “major leagues” showed their respective wares this past weekend. On Friday night, DAZN presented a nine-bout card in conjunction with Matchroom USA. On Saturday, Fox and Premier Boxing champions teamed up for the Errol Spence vs. Mikey Garcia pay-per-view event. Then, on Sunday, ESPN and Top Rank had their turn in the form of a St. Patrick’s Day card at Madison Square Garden headed by Belfast native and former Olympian Michael Conlan.

The star of the show was St. Patrick, the fifth-century saint widely credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. In his honor, there were three Irishmen on the card: Conlan, flyweight Paddy Barnes, and welterweight Lee Reeves. That said; there was a Hispanic flavor to the proceedings. The sixteen combatants included Eduardo Torres, Victor Rosas, Juan Tapia, Ricardo Maldonado, Adriano Ramirez, Oscar Mojica, Joseph Adorno, John Bauza, Luis Collazo, Ruben Garcia Hernandez, and two Vargases (Josue and Samuel).

Irish-Americans have a record of supporting Irish fighters, particularly on St. Patrick’s Day. This was no exception. The announced crowd of 3,712 arrived early. During the final pre-fight press conference, Top Rank president Todd duBoef had paid homage to the fans, although he did voice the view that, on St. Patrick’s Day, “Their cognitive behavior is manipulated by the beer.”

On fight night, the in-arena music was chosen accordingly. What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor? was played twice over the Hulu Theater sound system.

There was also green lighting.

Lee Reeves (2-0, 2 KOs) of Limerick, Ireland, opened the show with a four-round decision over Edward Torres.

In the third bout of the evening, Vladimir Nikitin (2-0, 0 KOs) won a majority decision over Juan Tapia. Nikitin defeated Conlan in the quarter-finals at the 2016 Olympics. Presumably, they’ll fight again at a time of maximum opportunity for Conlan.

Flyweight Paddy Barnes (5-1, 1 KO) of Belfast was a teammate of Conlan’s at the 2016 Olympics but lost in the first round to Spain’s Samuel Carmona. On St. Patrick’s Day, Barnes was matched against Oscar Mojica (11-5-1), who had one career knockout and had gone 3-5-1 in his previous nine outings.

Mojica broke Barnes’s nose in round one and knocked him down with a body shot in the second stanza (although to the mystification of those in the press section, referee Danny Schiavone waved off the knockdown). It was a spirited outing in which both men were too easy to hit for their own good. Barnes rallied nicely in the second half of the bout and arguably did enough to win the decision. But two of the three judges thought otherwise, leading to a 58-56, 58-56, 56-58 verdict in Mojica’s favor.

In the next-to-last fight of the evening, Luis Collazo (38-7, 20 KOs) took on Samuel Vargas (30-4-2, 14 KOs).

Collazo now 37 years old, reigned briefly as WBA welterweight champion twelve years ago. Since then, he had cobbled together twelve victories (an average of one per year) against six losses in eighteen fights. Vargas had one win in his previous three outings and has never been able to get the “W” against a name opponent.

It was a phone booth fight, which worked to Collazo’s advantage because Luis’s legs aren’t what they once were. The decision could have gone either way. Two judges scored the bout 96-94; one for Collazo and the other for Vargas. Frank Lombardi turned in a wide-of-the-mark 98-92 scorecard in Collazo’s favor.

Then it was time for the main event.

Conlan (10-0, 6 KOs) is best known to boxing fans for having given the finger (two middle fingers, actually) to the judges after coming out on the short end of a decision in the second round of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. His skill set is better suited to the amateur than professional ranks. But his Irish heritage is a significant marketing plus. And Top Rank specializes in both savvy matchmaking and building narratives.

This was the third consecutive year that Conlan, now a featherweight, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day weekend by fighting at Madison Square Garden. His ringwalk was marked by Irish-themed pageantry. And Ruben Garcia Hernandez, his opponent, was tailor-made for him.

Conlon controlled the fight with his jab. Nothing much else happened. “Mick” emerged victorious 100-90 on all three judges’ scorecards. And the fans went home happy because their man won.

*     *     *

The sad news that New York Mets pitching great Tom Seaver is suffering from dementia and will retire from public life is a reminder that all people from all walks of life are susceptible to the condition, not just fighters.

Seaver was on the list of A+ athletes who rose to prominence in the 1960s when advances in television were redefining the sports experience. Muhammad Ali was at the top of that list. Years ago, sportswriter Dick Schaap told me about an evening he spent with Ali and Seaver.

“In 1969, the year the Mets won their first World Series,”Schaap reminisced, “I spent the last few days of the regular season with the team in Chicago. Ali was living there at the time. I was writing a book with Tom Seaver, and the three of us went out to dinner together. We met at a restaurant called The Red Carpet. I made the introductions. And of course, this was the year that Tom Seaver was Mr. Baseball, maybe even Mr. America. Ali and Tom got along fine. They really hit it off together. And after about half an hour, Ali in all seriousness turned to Seaver and said, ‘You know, you’re a nice fellow. Which paper do you write for?’”

Thomas Hauser’s email address is His most recent book – Protect Yourself at All Times – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.

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