Undefeated New Zealand heavyweight Junior Fa believes his path towards WBO champion Joseph Parker grows closer by the day.
Fa, the former amateur rival of Parker, turned pro last year and has quickly fashioned a 12-0 record.
This week, Fa travels to the United States to take on unbeaten American Fred Latham (9-0-2) in Cleveland. It is his second fight on US soil - the first coming on the undercard of WBC champion Deontay Wilder.
All going to plan, he will then target a fight to get ranked with the WBO in order to become eligible to challenge Parker.
Parker and Fa fought four times in the amateur ranks, splitting their fights two each.
"As soon as possible, I want to try and get a ranking in the WBO," Fa said. "I've got this fight coming up and then in a perfect world, I can get a WBO fight at the end of this year. If not, then early next year.
"My ultimate goal is to be world champion and my fastest track is through Joseph Parker. He's a New Zealand fighter; I'm a New Zealand fighter. We've got history - our names seem to always be linked.
"If I win my fights in a convincing way, we could be heading towards a clash between Parker and I. That's what I want. I want that WBO belt."
Parker (24-0) is in a form of limbo after scrapping to a points win over Hughie Fury in a mandatory defence of his title in September. Parker's team has decided against fighting again this year, with plans to potentially take on Japanese heavyweight Kyotaro Fujimoto in Tokyo not progressing as initially hoped. Options remain for Parker's next voluntary defence but, for a major fight, he will be pushing for another payday of around $2 million.
Fa fought nine times in 2016 but last stepped into the ring in May. The 28-year-old has since changed coaches, now working with former heavyweight and kickboxer Doug "Vicious" Viney in an attempt to adopt a more aggressive style and improve his 58 per cent knockout strike-rate. He hopes to be in a position to challenge Parker by the end of next year.
"That's the date I'm working towards - some time late 2018."
Ultimately, Parker is eyeing potential unification bouts with Britain's Anthony Joshua and Wilder but a fight against Fa would be an easy local sell to keep him active. Longer term, Parker's promoter David Higgins indicated interest if Fa could prove himself.
"He's not on the radar at the moment because he hasn't earned his stripes yet. The ball is in his court if he wants to challenge Joseph Parker. If he gets to that point, we would welcome it. My message to Junior is to go and do the hard yards and build his résumé and gain wins over solid opponents," Higgins said.
"As that takes its natural course, public interest in a fight like that would build over time. If it got to that point, it would be like another Tua-Cameron fight; a local derby.
"If he does what Joseph did and average four to five fights a year, it could be sooner rather than later, so long as he keeps winning. We could enter a discussion next year - or never. The public want to see credible match-ups. Unless Junior was a genuine challenge, we wouldn't consider him."