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England's Frank Bruno. By the time he was 19 he was competing in the
amateur 91kg division but then gave the sport away for two years.
He took to weight training to bulk up and build his strength, returning to the
ring and turning pro at 22. Now under the wing of Sydney manager Ted Allen,
Mark believes he has the ability, discipline and determination for a real crack at
boxing's big time where "the top five percent make 90 percent of the money".
More importantly, others in the at-times arcane world of the ring also
believe in The Dominator (Mark's moniker in the ring). Flamboyant US
promoter Don King (of the gravity-challenged hair) has signed him to a three-
year contract. It's a deal which means invaluable exposure on the incredibly
lucrative US boxing circuit, a far cry from the fight nights at suburban halls
where most pro-boxing in WA takes place (Danny Green excepted of course).
"You couldn't meet a nicer guy or have a more professional boxer on your
books; we're chasing the dream," says Ted, who at the time of writing was
poised to announce a big fight in Las Vegas for his charge. The winner was
likely to get a coveted title shot at giant Russian Nikolai Valuev (he comes
in at a staggering 149kg and 2.1m tall -- that's seven foot two inches in the
NAME Mark de Mori
ALIAS The Dominator
TALE OF THE TAPE
MAKING HIS MARK « from page 87
PLAY THE MATADOR;
PLAY THE BULL."
old money) for the World Boxing Association heavyweight championship.
Ted tells me many of Mark's fights can be seen on YouTube, so I check out
a bunch. One pits Mark against a much bigger opponent who looks like he
tuned up for the bout by binging at the Krispy Kreme donut wholesale outlet.
But the commentators note, without a hint of irony, that despite "not be-
ing in shape" Robert Kooser has flattened several recent opponents.
Mark keeps Donut Man at jab's length, wary of that rogue punch, but as
the first round nears the end, unleashes a devastating blow to the big fella's
midriff. Kooser drops to his knees and is counted out.
The other fights though pit Mark against much-better credentialled, and
more chiselled, opponents. His bout against classy American Ed Mahone, a
one-time title contender, proved Mark could really foot it with the big guys.
Mahone was expected to win easily, but the post-Wyborne Mark had done
his homework and won a unanimous points decision. Now he scrutinises
every bit of intelligence and video footage of opponents before a fight, know-
ing he can adapt his game plan to their style.
"Sometimes you play the matador; sometimes you play the bull. Mahone
had won 23 out of 24 fights by knockout so I became the matador," says
Mark, who is savvy enough to know there is more to boxing than being able
to throw (or take) a punch. Australians don't care too much for those who
showboat or big-note themselves, but showmanship is a huge part of the US
"Promoters care about what reaction you get from the fans, not how
good you are. Don King almost never watches fights that aren't televised but
he came to see me on the undercard and saw the emotional reaction of the
crowd," Mark says. Taking a leaf out of the outrageous hyped-up world of
wrestling trash-talk, Mark vowed at a press conference before a recent US
bout that he was going to "torture and punish" his opponent. The press corps
loved it and Mark played "villain" to the hilt before dispatching his rival.
"It's theatre; outside of the ring everyone who knows me knows I am the
most laidback, easy going person you could meet. But when you're on the
undercard you have to make an impact."
Boxers certainly need speed, stamina, power and fitness but it's the "x-
factor" of discipline that perhaps makes the best stand out from the crowd.
And discipline Mark has in spades. He trains himself; six days a week,
weights, gym work and sparring. Mark is, however, a realist when it comes to
the hazards of his profession.
"Boxing is a dangerous sport but it is a case of risk versus reward. The
longer you are in it, the greater the risk of serious injury. I know if I get
knocked out in the next fight or two it could be all over. But I'm not worried,
unlike other boxers, about fading away into obscurity," says Mark, who has
plans to run his own personal training business after boxing.
But with many heavyweights fighting well into their 30s, The Dominator's
dream of a world title belt remains very much alive. sm
LIVES Scarborough, Perth
RANKING 17 on World Boxing
RECORD (as of 1/10/09): 16 wins -
1 loss -1 draw
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