Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora wants to break into 2008 with a bang and doesn’t plan to stop until the shooting is over.

“This is the year,” Mora says.

Mora, 27, faces Mexico’s big punching Rito Ruvalcaba (32-8, 28 KOs) at the Morongo Casino on Friday Jan. 11. It’s shootout number one on a card co-promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and Tecate.

The last two years have been wasted if you ask Mora. A lot of questions popped up rather than were answered.

But the East Los Angeles native plans to drive himself all the way to the middleweight title. Not next year, but this year.

First there’s Ruvalcaba, then John Duddy and hopefully the winner between Jermain Taylor and Kelly Pavlik. All in-a-row if possible.

“I’m not going to be picky,” said Mora (19-0-1, 4 KOs), adding that in waiting for a lucrative match, he made a mistake. “By the time I fought I was rusty.”

Meanwhile Pavlik stormed through the middleweight division like a modern day General Tecumseh Sherman. He took no prisoners as he became the judge, jury and executioner to three opponents in 2007.

Now he’s the middleweight champion of the world.

“He deserves it,” says Mora. “I have a lot of respect for Kelly Pavlik and for Jermain Taylor.”

Winning the middleweight world title is Mora’s dream.

It’s been three years since Mora emerged from obscurity and captured the first Contender reality television championship.

With his perplexing style many of the more favored boxers on the show like Peter Manfredo Jr., Ishe Smith and others had problems solving the movement. But after three years it’s no longer a secret.

So Mora evolves too.

“I think I’m going to go for more knockouts now,” said Mora. “I’ve never been a big hitter but I guess that’s what I have to do.”

Since turning professional in 2000, Mora’s quickness, unorthodox movements, defense and overall knowledge have forced opponents out of their game.

It was Mora’s odd style that gave Fernando “El Feroz” Vargas pause and later prompted him to help the youngster out in his career.

Anyone watching Mora spar in various gyms could see that he was too tough to pin down and fire combinations on. For years Mora has warred with the likes of Antonio Margarito, Kingsley Ikeke, Larry Mosley, Alfredo Angulo, and Vargas. None of his sparring partners ever dominated him.

In the many boxing gyms Mora’s ability is no secret, but to the casual boxing fan he’s regarded as a boxer from television.

Mora began boxing at 15 years old. Though he lived in East L.A. he attended schools in Montebello, a city that borders East Los as it’s called. He stepped into a makeshift boxing gym at the old Montebello armory and never stopped training.

“He always kept coming back when the other kids stopped,” said John Montelongo, who headed the Montebello Police Athletic League boxing program.

Mora wasn’t an instant success. He won as many as he lost in the beginning.

“Sergio always wanted to win badly,” Montelongo said.

Despite intense dedication and willingness to sacrifice, the winning formula didn’t arrive until his current trainer Dean Campos arrived.

Campos, though young in age, had an odd boxing theory that he felt could be used to win. He worked with Mora and suddenly the wins kept coming.

“It just worked,” said Montelongo about allowing Campos to implement his boxing style on Mora. “Sergio started winning all of his fights.”

Campos, though never a boxer, was sort of a boxing genius when it came to analyzing and dissecting opposing boxing styles.

“I grew up watching boxing,” said Campos. “Sometimes I just watch fight tapes all day and night.”

Title fight

Middleweight champion Pavlik and Taylor are set for a rematch on February 16 in Las Vegas in a non title fight at a catch weight of 168 pounds. Whoever wins, that’s who Mora wants to fight eventually.

“It’s set,” said Mora.

But first, Mora must beat Ruvalcaba, then a tentatively scheduled fight against Ireland’s John Duddy.

“I can’t get too far ahead of myself,” said Mora. “First I have to win on Friday, then I have to fight and beat John Duddy.”

Mora sparred with tall fighters like Jesus Karass Soto and Eddie Sanchez.

Unlike 2007, Mora plans to fight often in 2008.

“No more waiting around for the big fights,” said Mora, 27, who fought to a draw against Elvin Ayala last October. “I can’t get rusty waiting for something to happen. I have to stay busy.”

At the Home Depot Center, Ayala gave Mora fits during the first half of the fight with a smart game plan that employed counter-punching and light, but quick punches.

“We weren’t prepared for his style,” said Montelongo. “We watched a lot of tapes and he never fought like that. He did a lot of counter-punching in our fight.”

In the second half of that fight, Mora increased the tempo of his punch output and attacked.

“I looked horrible,” confesses Mora.

The former Contender champion can’t afford to look mediocre if he intends to secure a world title match this year.

“I’m a technician and for a technician you have to be sharp,” said Mora. “The only way to stay sharp is by fighting a lot.”

In the next 12 months the East L.A. boxer intends to put every day to good use and burn a place in line for a middleweight title shot.

“It’s time to step up,” Mora says.