TEVIN Farmer was knocked out on his debut and he won only half of his first eight fights.
But over the last five years the slick southpaw from Philadelphia has improved beyond all recognition and he goes into his rumble with Poleglass puncher James Tennyson as the reigning and defending IBF super-featherweight champion on the back of a 19-fight unbeaten run.
The hunger Farmer has shown to recover from such a poor start and make it to the very top of the sport is part of what makes this October 20 meeting in Boston so mouth-watering because Belfast Kronk fighter Tennyson has also come up the hard way.
Five years ago Tennyson (in his ninth fight) was knocked unconscious by an unknown Latvian journeyman called Pavel Senkovs.
The last of Senkovs’ 68 losses (he only won four fights) came the following year and Tennyson might well have followed him into anonymity had it not been for his fighting heart, the faith shown in him by his handlers Mark and Tony Dunlop and the devastating knockout power he has developed in both hands.
With 18 early wins in 24 bouts – and five on-the-trot since he moved up to super-featherweight - Tennyson is easily the hardest-hitting active Irish boxer and travelling to Boston and dethroning Farmer is an achievement that would put him into exclusive company alongside the likes of Wayne McCullough (who won a world title in Japan) and Carl Frampton who travelled to New York to beat Leo Santa Cruz.
The TD Garden match-up is an intriguing clash of styles and although Farmer lacks Tennyson’s power he is a well organised boxer who combines darting movement with spearing southpaw jabs and whiplash left hooks from a wide stance.
Tennyson, who was in Rotherham over the weekend sparring with former British champion Robbie Barrett, says he will “eat, sleep and train” over the next five weeks.
Farmer had raised eyebrows last weekend when he claimed he would walk away from Tennyson and face Gervonta Davis instead but Tennyson reckons that was all just ‘Twitter talk’.
“I don’t think he has the authority to pull out of a fight he has already signed up to,” he said.
“I think it was a load of nonsense, the guy was just getting ahead of himself.”
If Farmer can talk about fighting Floyd Mayweather protégé Davis why can’t Tennyson? He needs a world title first and if he takes the belt next month all things are possible.
“It shows you the direction that I’m going in boxing,” says Tennyson, a level-headed and affable 25-year-old.
“Everything has fallen into place nicely and I have been progressing perfectly the whole way – step by step, title by title and now I’ve got to a world title so everything’s just going great.”
Tennyson paved the way for this shot by travelling to London last year and getting up off the canvas in round two to stop the experienced Ward in the fifth.
“I’m enjoying the whole process,” he said.
“I don’t let it all build up and start getting nervous. I’m enjoying it, it’s what I have trained for and it’s what I’ve been doing since I was a kid.”
He was a kid of 11 when his cornerman and coach Tony Dunlop first spotted him. Tennyson beat a prospect out of Dunlop’s gym and he quickly identified him as a world class prospect.
“Tony was a southpaw himself so he has a lot in the locker that he can show me about southpaws,” said Tennyson.
“The hours he has put in with me? He has worked endless hours and he’s there any day I need to do anything. He’s brilliant; he’s a good man to have about.
“When we’re training we put the work in but before and after training we get a good laugh. The craic is always 90 with him.”
The Boston bill also features Katie Taylor v and is headlined by Billy Joe Saunders' WBA middleweight clash with Demetrius Andrade.