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‘Underestimated’ Florian Marku Ready To Make Chris Kongo Pay

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There is a saying that if you come for the king, you better not miss.

Florian Marku, 13-0-1 (8 KOs), has had a target on his back since he burst on to the scene five years ago. Britain’s welterweights regardless continue to line up for their own shot at “The Albanian King”.

“They underestimate me,” Marku told BoxingScene. “They think I’m a pushover and that they can beat me easily. That’s their mistake until they find out in the ring. By then, it’s too late. 

On Sunday evening Chris Kongo gets his opportunity to topple Marku and the Londoner looks like providing the 31 year old with his most difficult test to date. 

Marku’s confident, abrasive personality seems to rub every future opponent up the wrong way, and he and Kongo have had daggers drawn since they got up close and personal at a press conference last summer. 

A bit of pre-fight conflict is nothing new to Marku, who seems to thrive in chaos. He certainly doesn’t shy away from a  challenge. 

Injuries have slowed his momentum but – to his credit – Marku hasn’t used his notoriety to buy himself time and take keep-busy fights.

Marku turned professional as a raw entertainer with a huge fanbase but he has spent years knocking the sharp edges off his naturally aggressive style. His progress has been slow but steady, and he has been matched sensibly.

Treading carefully goes against Marku’s instincts. If he were left to his own devices, he would happily take giant steps, and he has little time for fighters who choose to tread water rather than take risks.

“They don’t believe in themselves and they don’t want to go higher in the rankings,” he said. “They only want to waste time. I’m not that guy. When I retire I want to have fulfilled my childhood dream of being a world champion. These are the fights that bring me nearer to that point. This one is exciting.

“It doesn’t really matter to me. If it’s a fight that the people and the fans want, I’m really happy to do it. With Chris, it’s a fight I think the fans want and it’ll open other doors in my career. I think it’s a good fight for the UK public and it’s an exciting fight.”

Beating Kongo in conclusive fashion would kick those doors in. Marku certainly won’t be looking backwards if he wins on Sunday night.

“That is what people don’t understand about me – I don’t do favours,” he said. “I always go for the good, big fights. I don’t ever say ‘No’ to anybody. All of the fights that they mention to me like Conor Benn, Josh Taylor, Josh Kelly and the other names they mention, I say ‘Yes’ to all of them. They ask me about Chris Kongo and I said that if it brings me better opposition then, yes, we can fight. Like I say, people underestimate me and they think that I’m easy.”

At his best, Kongo, 14-2 (7 KOs), is a slick, talented operator, but he is stepping into a high-pressure situation and will do well to box without tension. The bitterness of his long-standing feud with Marku would make a defeat hard to take personally, but Kongo will be aware that a defeat would have serious repercussions for him professionally, too. He has been beaten by Michael McKinson and last year he came up short in a challenge for Ekow Essuman’s British and Commonwealth titles. A third defeat by a domestic rival would be hard to rebound from.

Marku ultimately believes that his and Kongo’s paths are crossing at the perfect time. He will never lose his element of unpredictability but insists that he has learned to contain his aggression until he recognises the moment is right to unleash it.

“I think I showed in my last fight [a first-round stoppage of Dylan Moran in September 2023] that I’ve improved a lot,” he said. “You could see my patience. I was waiting; waiting. I didn’t throw a punch for about one minute and then the one I did throw, it was game over. I think I have changed a lot of things in my boxing style. You’re gonna see them all on the 31st March.

“I think he [Chris] is a good fighter but I think I’ve been in the ring with similar, good fighters. I think Chris Jenkins was a really good fighter. I think Maxim Prodan – the Ukrainian who I beat to win my first IBF title – was also a strong one. I think every fighter is different. I don’t prepare for Chris; I prepare myself for whoever they bring me. I’ll be ready.”

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