‘I fought Anthony Joshua on five days’ notice – I thought ‘oh s***’ in the ring’

Jason Gavern still remembers what his son said to him after being knocked down by Anthony Joshua in 2015.

"My son said 'dad you were fine,' and I was like 'son, you have no idea.'"

Gavern, like plenty of other boxers down the years, knows all too well what it's like to be on the end of a big right-hander from Joshua. The American fought AJ in Newcastle in 2015, accepting the bout on just five days' notice.

He put up a valiant defence against the up-and-coming Joshua, at that stage competing in his 11th competitive fight. Gavern, who quit the police force for a career in boxing, lasted three rounds against the Olympic gold medalist, bravely succumbing to a fourth and final knockdown, which gifted Joshua the 12th straight win of his professional career.

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Speaking exclusively to Daily Star Sport from Fort Lauderdale in Florida, Gavern opened up about what it was like accepting a fight with Joshua on such short notice and coming up against the Brit in the ring.

"I fought him on five days notice," Gavern tells us. "Eddie Hearn called me and said 'hey, do you want to fight?' I flew to London, we had a day of media and then I got a train to Newcastle. We arrived and I fought him two days later!

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"I was in camp with Joshua a couple of times and he’s a great guy. He's very respectful and very personable. I could talk to him and joke around. When I fought him in Newcastle he came across the ring and I thought 'oh s***, this guy is huge.'

"He had a different look and I thought 'oh boy, here we go.' He was a super cool guy to spar with. I was a veteran at the time, so I tried to give him some pointers and things like that."

Gavern went down three times before the fourth and final blow from Joshua ended the fight in the third round. Gavern was only the second person to take AJ to three rounds, after Konstantin Airich. Dillian Whyte then became the third a few months later.

But what's it like being on the receiving end from a Joshua knockdown? Gavern is one of the few people who know.

"He’s very technical," the 46-year-old admits. "He hit me with like a triple hook. I remember specifically saying 'where the hell did that come from?' He knocked me down three or four times. I wasn’t hurt, he didn’t knock me out out, but the last shot really shook me. I remember being on the ropes and he came behind me and tapped me on the shoulder.

"I looked up at him and smiled but in my mind I was all over the place. My son said 'dad you were fine.' and I was like 'son, you have no idea.' I think Joshua’s journey has been amazing and I’ll always be a part of his history."

Joshua would go on to win multiple heavyweight titles after defeating Gavern, including the WBA and IBO belts in a memorable fight against Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley in 2017. He takes on Robert Helenius this weekend, a last minute replacement for Whyte who was forced to pull out at the last minute after returning an "adverse finding" from a doping test.

Gavern warned Joshua about being complacent against the Finn and believes his former opponent would be wise to take the fight as long as possible, predicting a knockout between rounds eight and 12.

The American, who describes himself to us as a "huge teddy bear," ended his professional fighting career with a very respectable 27-4-21 record, having fought the likes of Joshua and Deontay Wilder.

It ended up being the stuff of dreams for a young boy from Pennsylvania. "I have a number of losses on my record, but they’re from last minute fights that included lots of traveling," he concludes. "I travelled the world, I can’t complain about it.

"I was a kid from Pennsylvania. I never would have imagined I’d be recognised by people around the world who saw me as famous and wanted a picture with me."

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