Don’t mistake the 54 weeks between fights as any kind of downtime for DeAndre Ware.

In fact, the 32-year old Toledo native has never been more active.

Sitting on a loss for more than a year is not how Toledo’s Ware (13-2-2, 8KOs) envisioned the circumstances heading into his next fight. Still, it is the hand that he has been dealt in facing Steve Nelson (16-0, 13KOs) this weekend at The Bubble in Las Vegas (Saturday, ESPN+, 7:30pm ET/10:00pm ET main card). His life outside of boxing is spent in similar fashion, primarily as a firefighter with the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department where every day has been an adventure especially in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m a firefighter and am working a lot,” Ware told ahead of this weekend’s bout. “The Covid has allowed me to spend time with my family. I can sit around and be with them day in and day out. It allowed me to do that and reflect on life.  It was time to reflect and work on my craft and get better.

“What happened with COVID, it allowed me to get down to the nitty gritty and get to it. We just had to get down to it, get back in fighting shape and work on my craft. It was hard training-wise. The gym was closed down and is still closed. I’ve been training out of a private gym. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t know what I would be doing. My cousin has a boxing gym, private gym. I have been training privately there.”

All things considered, it would normally come as a surprise that a boxer coming off of a loss and a year-plus long layoff would run toward a fight with a rising prospect boasting all of the political pull. Nelson—an unbeaten super middleweight from Omaha, Nebraska—fights out of the B&B Boxing Academy, run by Brian ‘Bomac’ McIntyre who is best known for his work with three-division champ and pound-for-pound entrant Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford (36-0, 27KOs).

Furthermore, it marks the fifth straight unbeaten opponent Ware will face—all within the last 27 months. He is 2-2 over that stretch, including an 8th round stoppage to Vladimir Shishkin in his most recent outing last August.

The hope was to have fought again before year’s end or even earlier this year, but he instead landed a far more rewarding victory—coming to the rescue as a first responder as his community battled against the coronavirus. All the while came his continued efforts to remain ready for a call such as the one he received for this weekend’s clash.

“I don’t know how I do it sometimes. I guess it’s will,” notes Ware. “It’s what I love to do. I have to work around the clock. I run before I come to work. Going out here every day, you don’t know what you’re gonna get. I have to protect myself against this virus.  I don’t want to take nothing back home to my family. I have protect myself here.”

There remains plenty more to accomplish in the ring, beginning with his plans to upset the apple cart this weekend.

“I do. It depends on how things go in the ring, but I would love to continue my career as a firefighter. Saving lives, helping people. I love giving back. It’s my nature. I love to help when I’m able to do. It’s what I do.

“When I was younger, I had people who gave back to me. Now it’s my turn to give back and make my city proud.”

For the first time in more than a year, that next chance comes in the ring.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox