Florian Marku knows a thing or two about starting a new life.
He was just eight years old when his parents opted to up sticks and move away from war-torn Albania and cross the border to Greece.
“It was in 1997 when the government fell, Albania was without a government any more, there were arms in the street,” Marku recalls.
“There were many, many problems back then and my father decided we would go to Greece, which shares a border with Albania, when I was eight years old.”
When the conflict died down, he made a habit of heading back to the Balkans to beat up local favourites in rival country Serbia as a kickboxing champion.
“Albania and Serbia had many problems as countries, so when I beat these guys Albanians were very excited,” he recalls.
“They loved it. My fanbase grew very fast. I was fighting for them. That was my motivation.”
“They love me because they see I give my heart when I go to the ring. When I go in there, I don’t think about losing. My mind is 100% win.
“The Albanian fans, they know me. They grew up seeing my fights, how I developed.
“I am a patriot. I am proud of Albania, every fight I go in with my Albanian flag. This makes them proud and they support me.”
It was the profile he built as a kickboxer and then an MMA fighter which led Marku to being offered a boxing match in England two years ago.
It proved a false promise – but he saw enough to convince him to start a new life and new career with a fresh set of dreams.
“I came here two years ago, now I live here,” he says from his home in north London.
“I had an offer for a fight and that was the reason I started here.
“I had an offer from a manager but he wasn’t somebody serious, and when I came here I understood that they were joking, they were lying to me.
“I said ‘what are we doing now?’. The fight didn’t happen but I stayed here, I took a house here, I started training. I started building my life.
“From that day I’m here and I love it here.
“To tell you the truth, before I was seeing Greece like my home but I see my home as England, London.”
It is no surprise that Marku threw himself into his new challenge.
He insists he had few problems adjusting to boxing due to his kick-boxing style.
But there is no doubt he has made major strides in the past year, as shown by his demolition of Muma Mweemba inside a round last week for his seventh professional win.
“This last year I am another fighter,” he explains. “If you see me now compared to one year before…
“This last fight they didn’t see anything. They saw only a little bit of my head movement.
“No welterweight has my speed and my power. You can see this. Many times people think I put my videos in fast-forward. No, no, no. My speed is real.”
Marku oozes confidence.
He has been vocal in calling out Conor Benn and other big names.
When fans return, he will be a huge ticket seller, boasting Premier League stars of Albanian descent such as Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi amongst his loyal fans.
“Me, I am the full package, you understand?” He declares.
“First of all, I have my fans who support me. When the fans are back, I can sell an arena on my own.
“Secondly, I can box. Whoever has sparred me knows that. You can ask all the guys, they know my level and I am improving all the time.
“When the time comes to show what I am all about, you know, they will understand if I was talking s*** or if I was good.
“I am happy that the fans here in the UK are starting to hear about me. They like my style, they see how I fight.
“I don’t bring a boring fight, I only bring an exciting fight, and I’m happy that’s being seen.
“I know my abilities. We will talk in one year and you will say I was right. I know what I am capable of.”
Whilst Marku has been around the globe, Albania remains home.
And the dream is simple – to one day return with a world championship belt around his waist in a glorious homecoming.
“To bring the world title back home, that’s my dream,” he states.
“This is the reason I think god created me, to become a world champion.
“To fight in a football stadium, back home, with I don’t know how many people. It will be 100% full – 30,000 or 40,000, I don’t know.
“That is my dream, to defend my title there, and it will happen, 100%.”
Watch to the latest episode of Mirror Fighting: One to Watch for the full interview with Florian Marku as he discusses his journey.
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