Florian Marku returned to box in his home country, defeating Mexico’s Miguel Parra Ramirez by unanimous decision at the Air Albania Stadium in Tirana.
But he had to pick him up off the canvas to defeat a determined opponent, who made Marku work hard for his victory.
A kickboxer who converted to boxing, Marku has been plying his trade in the UK, building a thriving fanbase as he has progressed through the welterweight division.
He has stopped Rylan Charlton as well as most recently former British champion Chris Jenkins and against Parra was looking to boost his ranking with the WBC by winning an Interim Silver title from that sanctioning body.
This was his first professional fight in Albania and bringing thousands of supporters to an open-air stadium was testament to Marku’s drawing power.
The Albanian is used to having a raucous crowd supporting him, but even he needed some time to acclimatise to this level of support. With Marku standing off initially, Parra Ramirez opened up with a long straight cross. He caught the home fighter, beginning the busier of the two.
But Marku pushed forward himself, curving his right over to land to the head. He prodded his jab in as he started to walk Parra Ramirez down. Marku looked to land left hooks even as the Mexican continued to work diligently with straight shots.
The “Albanian King” bombed a heavy right through, the weight of his punches driving Parra Ramirez to the ropes in the third round.
Marku bounded in with a cuffing left hook that bundled Parra Ramirez off his feet. It had not looked like much, seeming to be more of a push, but the referee gave the Mexican a count. However just as Marku was building momentum a clash of heads left him badly cut by the left eye. Parra Ramirez took heart at that and pounded Marku with hooks.
He was frustrating Marku’s efforts to get to him. But as the flow of blood from the cut was contained, Marku settled, blocking Parra Ramirez’s attacks with his gloves.
He worked at the Mexican with further lead left hooks. Marku looked confident too as he lashed Parra Ramirez back with his right cross.
In the seventh round, Parra Ramirez suffered a cut on his cheek when Marku landed a flashing left hook. Marku was bringing in effective power shots, clubbing another left into Parra Ramirez when the Mexican fought back.
The referee decided to take a point of Parra Ramirez for pushing, widening Marku’s lead even further.
Just as it seemed Marku was beginning to put an unassailable lead together, Parra Ramirez made a breakthrough of his own. He dropped Marku with a fine left hook in the eighth round, putting the home fighter down heavily.
The Mexican set about him then, keeping Marku under pressure. The cacophony of noise saw the referee mishear the bell and end the round a few seconds early.
Even as Parra Ramirez came on strongly, Marku still saw out the ninth round.
Marku seized control back his way in the 10th and last round. His lead left hook set up an explosive right. Marku slugged back at his opponent and made sure the contest went the distance, securing a unanimous decision victory.
“It was unbelievable,” Marku said afterwards. “The crowd is amazing. I wanted to perform much better than this but I did not want an easy opponent for here.
“Mexicans, they come to fight. And this guy came to fight here.”
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