Boxing fans raising their eyebrows at the latest talk linking Mark de Mori with a big fight will find that even the Perth heavyweight is taking it with a pinch of salt.
The 32-year-old, who now lives in Croatia, returns to action tonight on a pro-am card in Newcastle against Adnan Buharalija, a rugged 50-fight Bosnian who he stopped in six rounds last year.
Buharalija is a solid journeyman who is coming in as a replacement. But he is a far cry from some of the names de Mori has been associated with since signing for US promoter Don King in 2007.
Samuel Peter, Deontay Wilder, Alexander Povetkin and Bryant Jennings have all, at different times, been mentioned. None has come off.
The latest is Bermane Stiverne, the Haiti-born Canadian who won the vacant World Boxing Council title earlier this month.
Stiverne and De Mori are both King fighters and a clash between the pair would ensure the 82-year-old promoter keeps control of a portion of boxing’s greatest prize.
It’s a long shot and de Mori would have to lift his WBC ranking from the current 19 to be in the frame. But if Alex Leapai can fight Wladimir Klitschko, de Mori is entitled to dream.
“I spent most of the year negotiating with Don King that I would fight Bermane Stiverne if he won the WBC title and they’re still planning on that,” he said. “But rather than do what I used to do and believe what people tell me, I’m trying to keep Plan B alive.
“I was supposed to box against Eric Molina on the undercard of Stiverne versus (Chris) Arreola but my visa wasn’t ready. I also had one of my advisers negotiating with Povetkin that went somewhere then didn’t quite work out. So when I was given this opportunity I jumped at it, because I’ve learnt from when I was out of the ring for two years.
“I signed a contract to fight Kali Meehan with Don King back then. And when that didn’t happen I thought, ‘Oh no, I’ve got to wait for these big ones, I’m right there, I’m right there’ and before I knew it two years had passed.
“What the ratings committee seem to reward me for is if I can stay active when there are no big fights being organised.”
Facing Buharalija, who has left behind a country devastated by floods, gives de Mori (25 wins, one loss, two draws) a chance to see how he has progressed since they met last May.
“We had an original opponent, a bloke from Africa (Kenyan Raymond Ochieng), but he pulled out and he took a fight with David Rodriguez. He got more money for that fight so fair enough.
“I put my feelers out to matchmakers and Adnan came back and said he’d like a rematch. He’s been in Turkey this year and been sparring with Odlanier Solis, he was there for the Tony Thompson camp. He’s also sparred with Wlodarczyk, Klitschko, a lot of these guys.
“Last year I was comfortably ahead against him and he caught me with a big shot but it was on the back of my neck. It shook me to my toes, I felt pins and needles and just glad had an experienced referee who saw that.”
De Mori, who is ranked 11 by the World Boxing Association, is one of three pro fights on the card, with local fighter-promoter Chad Bennett topping the bill against unbeaten Peruvian light-welterweight Tony Fernandez.