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Mickey Bey Didn’t Lose Faith as his match with Tevin Farmer kept Falling Apart

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  • Mickey Bey Didn’t Lose Faith as his match with Tevin Farmer kept Falling Apart

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    By Arne K. Lang

    “I have no illusions that I can fight forever,” says Mickey Bey who turns 40 in six months, “but I have one more run left in me. My goal is to become the oldest fighter to win the world lightweight title,” he says, noting that the record-holder in this regard is Raymundo Beltran who was 36 when he captured the vacant WBO diadem in 2018.

    If successful, Bey would become a two-time world lightweight champion as he briefly held the IBF version of the belt. His road to what he hopes will culminate in another title reign begins on Feb. 25 in Atlanta where he meets former super featherweight title-holder Tevin Farmer in a BLK Prime promotion that will serve as the co-feature to a match between Adrien Broner and Ivan Redkach.

    “If you look at my pro record,” continues Bey who is 23-3-1 (11 KOs), “you’ll see that I haven’t taken much punishment. In fact, I’ve never had a clear-cut loss.” Indeed, two of those three setbacks – versus Rances Barthelemy and George Kambosos Jr – were by split decision and the other came in a fight that Bey was winning handily until he lost focus in the final round.

    John Molina exploited Mickey’s slip-up when they met in a 10-rounder in 2016 at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. Through the nine completed rounds, Bey was up by a country mile; he had won every round on one of the scorecards. In the 10th, Molina pulled the fight out of the fire, forcing the stoppage with a barrage of unanswered punches after discombobulating Bey with a short left hook.

    “It isn’t like me to showboat,” says Bey, “but I did that night and I paid the price. I was with Floyd Mayweather at the time. Floyd was sitting ringside and I was actually talking at him when Molina cracked me. It was probably a blessing in disguise. It was like God was telling me to stay in my lane.”

    In Bey’s mind, he hasn’t suffered a clear-cut loss since his amateur days and he was an outstanding amateur, winner of 170 of 178 fights according to one newspaper report. In 2004, he defeated future lightweight champion Brandon Rios in the 125-pound class in the Olympic Box-Offs. However, there was one more hurdle to pass to earn a ticket to the Summer Games, a new wrinkle in Olympic qualifying, and he failed to accompany the squad to Athens when he lost to an Argentine opponent at the last stand tournament in Brazil. Heading into that competition, Bey was shaking off the effects of pneumonia.

    Mickey and his younger brother Cortez Bey, also an outstanding amateur, turned pro as a tandem on a card in their hometown of Cleveland on April 29, 2005. The de facto promoter was their sponsor, Roy Jones Jr.

    Bey was five years into his pro career and undefeated at 16-0 when he signed with Top Rank. His first fight under the Top Rank banner was a 6-rounder at the MGM Grand against Eric Cruz underneath a world featherweight title scrap between Juan Manuel Lopez and Rafael Marquez. Mickey won a unanimous decision but broke his hand in the process.

    This was Bey’s first fight in Las Vegas, but he was no stranger to the city, having befriended the Mayweathers. Jeff Mayweather and Floyd Sr. trained him for his early fights in Las Vegas and he would later be persuaded to bolt Top Rank and join Floyd Mayweather Jr’s “Money Team” stable.

    In hindsight, Bey wishes that he had stayed with Bob Arum’s organization. “I never had a bad experience with Arum. Bob was always a man of his word. I know that I would have gotten a title fight sooner if I had stayed there. Being a promoter would eventually become basically just a hobby for Floyd. That was becoming obvious even before he let Tank get away,” says Bey, referencing Gervonta “Tank” Davis who has a big fight on Saturday in Washington, DC, against Hector Luis Garcia.

    Bey’s first title fight came against Mexico’s Miguel Vazquez who was making his seventh title defense. The match, co-promoted by Floyd Mayweather Jr and Oscar De La Hoya, was the chief supporting bout to Floyd’s rematch with Marcos Maidana at the MGM Grand.

    Bey won a split decision but his elation at winning the title was tempered by the fact that he knew it wasn’t a fan-friendly fight. It wasn’t simply a matter of mis-matched styles. Bey had hurt his hand again in training, but this was an opportunity too good to pass up.

    Flash forward to Dec. 14, 2019 at Madison Square Garden. Bey is matched against George Kambosos Jr, an undefeated (17-0) Australian but a fighter without a signature win and best known as Manny Pacquiao’s longtime sparring partner.

    For Bey, this is his first fight in 15 months and only his second fight in three-and-a-half years, but he acquits himself well while losing a split decision. And you know the rest of the story. Kambosos goes on to upset Teofimo Lopez, begetting a monster payday in his first of two fights with Devin Haney.

    Bey concedes that he had no burning desire to fight again after fighting Kambosos, but that he reconsidered after the Australian became an overnight sensation. But getting his career back on track has proved to be daunting.

    Bey and Tevin Farmer were first scheduled to fight on May 21 in Accra, Ghana. The fight was then shifted to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, but could not go on as scheduled when UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan passed away on May 13 as custom dictated a period of mourning that sacked all local sporting events.

    Farmer vs. Bey was rescheduled for Aug. 12 in Prescott, Arizona, but evaporated when promoter EJ Matthews, who operated under the name Bigger Than Life Entertainment, failed to meet his obligations. To say that the fight fell out at the eleventh hour doesn’t capture the gist of it. Four undercard bouts in what was to be a six-bout card were completed when the lights were turned off. Bey vs. Farmer “just vanished like lost luggage,” wrote Arizona’s ace boxing scribe Norm Frauenheim.

    BLK Prime, which rescued the orphaned fight, raised eyebrows when it jumped into the fight game with fistfuls of money, seemingly overpaying -- and grossly overpaying – to acquire the services of Terence “Bud” Crawford, a brilliant fisticuffer whose ring artistry hadn’t translated into strong pay-per-view buys, and the under-achieving problem child Adrien Broner.

    Mickey Bey was ringside for BLK Prime’s maiden venture, Crawford’s successful title defense against David Avanesyan last month in Omaha, Bud Crawford’s hometown. While the ppv numbers are proprietary – a company spokesman said they exceeded expectations, whatever that means – the event at Creighton University’s basketball arena was a smash hit at the gate with 14,360 tickets sold. It was Bey’s first trip to Omaha and he came away very impressed. His qualms that BLK’s Atlanta promotion could turn into another boondoggle were assuaged.

    “The atmosphere was one of the best of any fight that I have been to,” says Bey. “Everything the promoter did was first-class, very professional.”

    Although Bey wasn’t included on Team Devin Haney’s two excursions to Melbourne, he has been deeply involved in the career of the undisputed lightweight champion. “Of all the young fighters out there, he has the best chance of surpassing Floyd’s 50-0,” he says.

    “In some regards, Devin reminds me of my old amateur teammate Andre Ward. I knew Andre had the best chance of winning a gold medal in Athens. It was his determination and his discipline. He probably could have made our Olympic team as a long-distance runner if he had been so inclined.”

    Bey’s trainer Kevin Henry has also been heavily involved in the career of Haney, having first worked with the precocious boxer when Haney was nine years old and sticking around for all but his last three fights. “Kevin Henry and Floyd [Mayweather] Sr. were most responsible for crafting Devin into the fighter that he has become,” notes Bey.

    Ring rust could be an issue when Mickey Bey and Tevin Farmer step into the ring on Feb. 25. Both will have been out of action for 25 months. However, Bey doesn’t consider this a problem. “Had the fight come off when it was originally scheduled,” he says, “I would have had a much shorter camp and I wouldn’t be in the shape that I am now.”

    Bey studies the odds on fights and is respected among his peers for his sharp opinion. When he says, “I will defeat Farmer, of that I have no doubt,” one is tempted to saunter over to the sportsbook without waiting for the inevitable rebuttal from his opponent.

    ---

    Arne K. Lang’s latest book, titled “George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910,” rolled off the press in September. Published by McFarland, the book can be ordered directly from the publisher (https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/c...-little-giants) or via Amazon.
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