Jaron “Boots” Ennis is getting closer to his goal, and the strength of his latest opponent is an indication.

Ennis was scheduled to fight Thomas Dulorme, but Dulorme tested positive for COVID-19 and was removed from the card. South African Chris van Heerden was announced as the replacement. Ennis and van Heerden will fight in the 12-round co-main event at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., on the Emmanuel Rodriguez-Reymart Gaballo card, a World Boxing Council bantamweight championship bout. The fight is available via pay-per-view on Showtime.

Van Heerden is not just a throw-in guy. He has a 28-2 career record and hasn’t lost since a 2015 bout against current welterweight champion Errol Spence. It’s expected to be the toughest test yet for Ennis (26-0, 24 KOs).

“Every time I fight, they always say this is my toughest fight,” Ennis said. “This is another fight for me to get closer to where I want to be, and that’s fighting those world champions and top five guys.”

Spence defeated van Heerden by eighth-round TKO. While Ennis has been vocal about wanting to fight common opponents as the top boxers, he said he’s not aiming to outdo Spence’s performance.

Van Heerden has won each of his last five fights by decision. Ennis has never gone 12 rounds. The Philly native’s last 16 bouts have each lasted no longer than six rounds.

“Jaron Ennis is clearly a hot name right now, but he’s been very untested,” van Heerden said. “I’m smart enough to know what works and what doesn’t in the ring and I won’t make the mistakes that he’s been able to capitalize on with other opponents.”

Van Heerden, 33, is a veteran who’ll be fighting from a southpaw stance. Each of Ennis’ last six fights have come against orthodox fighters. Ennis fights from multiple stances, including southpaw, and he’s not afraid to make Saturday’s matchup uncomfortable.

“This is another fight for me to get closer to where I want to be, and that’s fighting those world champions and top five guys.”

Jaron Ennis

“I love fighting southpaws,” Ennis said. “One thing for sure, I know other southpaws don’t like fighting other southpaws. Me switching back and forth, that’s just going to confuse him.”

The lead-up timeline for the fighters couldn’t be more opposite. Ennis fought just three months ago, but van Heerden last was in the ring in August 2019. Van Heerden said that he’s been training in Los Angeles for the past few months and waiting on an opportunity.

Ennis was back in the ring one day after his September knockout win. He’s posted workout videos on Instagram showcasing the shape he’ll be in on Saturday night.

It’s safe to say that van Heerden is the most accomplished fighter that Ennis has faced. His only two losses are to Spence and a controversial decision against Nikola Stevanovic in 2010.

If you ask Ennis, he’s been ready since last year for a shot at the elite welterweights. A convincing win on Saturday will put him in position for his shot in 2021.

“The goal is to get a knockout and let the welterweight division know that I’m here, I’m not playing, and I’m ready to take over this division,” Ennis said.