Deontay Wilder is in the mandatory position to challenge newly crowned heavyweight titleholder Bermane Stiverne before the end of the year in a fight that has been ordered, but with Stiverne nursing a sore hand it is unclear when the fight will take place. So Wilder is going to keep busy in order to stay sharp for when the title fight does happen.
To that end, the 28-year-old Wilder, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will step into the ring to fight on Saturday (Showtime Extreme, 7 p.m. ET/PT) on the Kell Brook-Shawn Porter undercard at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
A loss would kill his shot at Stiverne and, sure, anything can happen in the ring, but Wilder is understandably not taking much of a risk against journeyman opponent Jason Gavern (25-16-4, 11 KOs), who has been knocked out seven times and lost whenever he has stepped up.
Wilder (31-0, 31 KOs), the 2008 U.S. Olympic super heavyweight bronze medalist, has yet to face a serious opponent in his career, although Gavern is probably better than most of the guys he has faced.
Wilder has 18 first-round knockouts and has never been past the fourth round. Still, as remote as the possibility is that he would lose to Gavern, you never know for sure what will happen when that bell rings.
That is why Wilder rightly said he is not taking Gavern lightly.
"This is boxing, and this is the heavyweight division. So you can't take anyone lightly,” said Wilder, who is coming off a first-round knockout of Malik Scott in March. “I'm not treating this like a warm-up. My main focus is fighting for a title, but I'm not looking past my opponent on [Saturday].
“I'm good to go. I'm always in shape. I'm always in the gym. I treat boxing like my nine to five. Others may not take it seriously, but this is a sport where you can get hurt if you don't protect yourself and take it seriously. So I'm always tuned up and ready to go for my fans."
Wilder said that his focus is not so much on Gavern but on making sure he gets to Stiverne.
"My motivation is fighting for a world title,” Wilder said. “I need to go into the ring and take care of my opponent. I have to fight to win and succeed in order to provide for my family.
"We're not looking past [Saturday], but we know to prepare for Stiverne. That's how confident I am in my ability and skills. I'm not worried about people picking the 'right guy' for me. I would be the laughing stock of the world if I had the title fight lined up and lost this fight on [Saturday]. So I just have to get the job done next week and we'll go from there."
The 37-year-old Gavern is experienced and has faced several name opponents, including Oleg Maskaev, Steve Cunningham, Mariusz Wach and Denis Boytsov, but he lost to them all.
His biggest win? A three-round decision against totally shot 45-year-old James Toney, who has not been a factor since about 2007, in the November semifinals of a “Prizefighter” tournament in England.