We’ve seen it time after time. A fighter loses early in his career and they are tossed on the scrap heap; dropped by their promotors; ignored by their new fan base. It’s a cruel sport and one that continues to follow the trodden path laid before it, without a full examination into a fighter’s true potential inside the ring.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Fighters who fail to be weighed down by the mythical pressure of retaining an 0 on their records. Fighters that yearn to be tested as early as possible in their careers. Fighters that are forced to take the b-side in fights in order to forge a career past a couple of miserly paydays.
Tevin Farmer is this exception. Making his debut in 2011, the flamboyant ‘American Idol’ lost by fourth-round TKO to little-known, fellow-debutant, Oscar Santana; a crippling way to start your career in the paid ranks. Following on from this defeat, the Pennsylvanian southpaw won two four-rounders on the scorecards, before succumbing to a defeat and a draw at the hands of Josh Bowles and Frank De Alba - both early in their respective careers.
Two bounce-back wins followed, until losses to Kamil Laszczyk and Jose Pedraza consigned him to a 7-4-1 record after twelve fights, with two TKO defeats in the final round of contests asking serious questions of Farmer’s future in the sport.
Since then, the now 28-year-old has gone from strength to strength, culminating in claiming the IBF super featherweight title, defending it this past weekend against the plucky James Tennyson in Boston.
Farmer wasn’t the first and won’t be the last to turn a career around which was struggling to get off the ground, with plenty of former, and current, world champions suffering early setbacks in their careers.
Ricardo Mayorga - was (8-3)
’El Matador’, a former two-weight world champion, struggled to get going in the paid ranks after losing on his debut in San Jose, Costa Rica, to Humberto Aranda. A string of victories followed for the Nicaraguan until back-to-back defeats to fellow-countrymen threatened to derail his career before it got started.
Mayorga was able to turn his life in the sport around, going onto fight some of the best names in the welterweight, light middle, and middleweight divisions. Wins over Vernon Forrest, Andrew Lewis and Fernando Vargas were balanced by defeats to Oscar De La Hoya, Cory Spinks, Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosely and Miguel Cotto, as the “Craziest man in the sport” forged his name into the history books.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai - was (1-3-1)
I make no apology for my love of Sor Rungvisai. One of the most authentic rags to riches stories in the sport of boxing, the 31-year-old super flyweight has burst into the pound-for-pound top 10 after wins over - most notably - Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada over the past 18 months.
The truth of the matter is, however, that Wisaksil Wangek (as he is otherwise known) was close to throwing in the towel early in his career. With just one win in his first five fights against a debuting Prakaipetch Aunsawan, the Thai superstar’s story may not have developed from there.
Speaking to Sor Rungvisai last year, the WBC champion stated: “No, I did not think that I would become a world champion. There was a point when I was asking myself why was I still fighting when I could not win a fight and whether I should even continue to fight.”
Now, at 47-4-1, Sor Rungvisai’s commitment and perseverance have paid off, becoming one of the main attractions for the hardcore boxing fraternity.
Johnny Nelson - was (6-5)
Us British fans are more aware of the character that is Johnny Nelson. Now appearing on Sky Sports as a poster-boy for Matchroom cards, Nelson’s career in the ring is all but a distant memory; yet a memory of severe highs and lows.
Two spells in his career at cruiserweight were littered with defeats. First, starting out his career, Nelson went 6-5 in his first eleven outings. After steadying the ship, going unbeaten in his next 16, “The Entertainer” went 4-7 in his following eleven bouts, seemingly ruling him out of contention for world honours.
Four years followed and in 1999 Nelson picked up the WBO cruiserweight world championship after a fifth-round TKO of Carl Thompson, going on to successfully defend the crown 14 times before retirement. An astonishing career of ups and downs, culminating in a 45–12–2 record.
With Tevin Farmer now looking to pin down a fight against the unpredictable Gervonta Davis, it’s clear that the IBF super featherweight champion fears no man and no outcome in his career. Without the weight of fear dragging down fighters who are protecting their 0s, Farmer’s desire to unify the division is admirable.
Farmer has bounced back many times in his career. A fearless fighter is a dangerous fighter.