Steven Nelson spent nine months on the front lines in Afghanistan as a member of the U.S. Army’s 7th Special Forces Group in 2008 and 2009.

“We went 12 hours on, 12 hours off for nine months straight,” Nelson recalled during an interview with “When your job is war, there are no days off.”

When literal life-and-death situations shape your perspective, you determine that the restrictions of “The Bubble” during a fight week aren’t really worth complaining about. The 32-year-old Nelson instead appreciates another opportunity to showcase himself on an ESPN platform Saturday night.

The unbeaten Omaha, Nebraska, native is scheduled to encounter DeAndre Ware in a 10-round super middleweight fight at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. The bout between Nelson (16-0, 13 KOs) and Ware (13-2-2, 8 KOs), of Toledo, Ohio, is the co-feature that’ll immediately precede the main event – Cincinnati’s Jamel Herring (21-2, 10 KOs) against Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Oquendo (31-6, 19 KOs) in a 12-round fight for Herring’s WBO junior lightweight title.

Nelson-Ware will start on ESPN+ sometime shortly after 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.

In his last fight, Nelson stopped previously unbeaten Cem Kilic (14-1, 9 KOs) in the eighth round. ESPN aired what Nelson considers the best performance of his four-year pro career January 11 from Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Ware, a full-time firefighter, lost an eight-round unanimous decision to Germany’s Kilic in September 2018.

“I’ve seen a couple of his films,” Nelson said in reference to Ware. “I don’t study my opponents too much because for different fights people may have had different training camps, or they may have approached the fight different. So, you never can use that stuff as a way to say, ‘Oh, this is how they’re gonna fight.’ Because even like when he fought the last guy I fought, Cem Kilic, and I beat Cem, from my understanding, he took that fight on two weeks’ notice. So, I look at that like he can come at me a whole different way than when he fought Cem. So, I can’t use that. ‘Oh, well I beat Cem, so I’ll beat him, too.’ No, styles make fights. I take him as serious as I took Cem. I trained hard in preparing for him, and I’m prepared for any style he may bring.”

Nelson, who is a close friend and stablemate of Terence Crawford, had won every round of their scheduled 10-rounder on all three scorecards before beating Kilic by technical knockout.

“It was good to see everyone’s reaction to how I fought,” Nelson said. “I know how good I am, and I know that, till this day, people haven’t seen the best of me. I’m the type of person where if the job requires a screwdriver, I’m not gonna pull out every other tool. I use what I need to use to beat the opponent. So, there’s a lot people haven’t seen from Steven Nelson. I know what I’m capable of. All I’m doing is staying to the program and displaying to everybody what I can do. I hope all my opponents are different, so that I can pull out a different tool, to show people that I can beat whatever style.”

Nelson is the WBO’s eighth-ranked contender for its super middleweight champion, Billy Joe Saunders. The unassuming Nelson isn’t the type to call out England’s Saunders (29-0, 14 KOs) or anyone else, but he hopes a world title shot is in his foreseeable future.

“That’s the game plan,” Nelson said. “My job is to believe in my management and my promotional team. I’m not looking for certain names because there’s no telling who’s gonna have those titles by the time I get there. My job is to work my way up the rankings, so when I get there, I have a good case to say, ‘OK, I can fight for a title. I’ve earned this spot. I’m ranked number one or number two or whatever, and I deserve to fight for this title,’ so they can’t deny me.” 

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.