FanPost

The Albanian King's Parade - 20th November Boxxer Event at Wembley Arena

This report was delayed a few weeks thanks to a bout of covid - which I very possibly picked up at Wembley Arena. . .

Tartan shorts and bagpipes in his ring walk song, Nick Campbell wants you to know where he’s from. He aims to become the first Scot to be British heavyweight champion. We know how boxing works. We know that when a journeyman like Phil Williams steps in at the eleventh hour, his job is to save the fight not light fireworks. But at least look interested. Williams resembled a man who knows there’s a better party going on somewhere else. It's hard to care as a fan when one of the boxers doesn’t. He went down in the first which may well have been a slip ruled as a knockdown. That didn’t improve his mood. He went down in the third and made no particular effort to get up.

Expectations weigh heavily when you go into the family business. This must be particularly true when your cousin is the best heavyweight in the world and he’s in the front row. Tyson Fury watched on as cousin Hosea Burton took on Dan Azeez for the British Light Heavyweight title. It was never close (Azeez took every round) but somehow always compelling and the fight of the night. From the moment he ignored Burton’s attempt at pre-fight pleasantries, Azeez was all intensity, focused in defence, fierce in attack. At times, it was tricky to tell whether Burton was on unsteady legs or if it was just the ungainly footwork of a tall fighter. His chin defied all and as his improbable survival went on, you wondered if he might finally get his moment. But though he kept throwing, he never got to grips with the relentless Azeez who finally overwhelmed his gutsy opponent in the seventh. Azeez is easy to like, a fighter striving to make the very most of his abilities. Afterwards, he implored other UK domestic light heavyweights to "mix it up"; they may take some persuading.

In a globe-trotting career that’s seen him fight across four continents, this was Olanrewaju Durondola’s first UK card. He’s built a decent record on his travels and been in with some very good fighters. The 41-year-old, however, looked more worn out than battle-hardened. The pep in Richard Riakporhe’s jabs rapidly drained the Nigerian’s ambitions. Shaken at the end of the first, rocked badly in the third, Durondola did well to make it to the fifth when Riakporhe ended things decisively. The South Londoner looked comfortable throughout but then this wasn’t the step up it had been billed as.

"I’m going bed! I ain’t watching Marku headline, he’s absolutely garbage, honestly wouldn’t win a fight in my local!"

"Sky holding the Marku fight until after their mismatch main event is embarrassing."

"If the boxing ability of dogsh*t was in human form it would be Marku."

Twitter didn’t think much of the decision to let Florian Marku top the card but then history is made by those who show up and shout drunkenly, rather than those who sit and grumble on their sofas. The Albanians in the arena were passionate, deafening and numerous. Without them, we could have squeezed the whole event into my back garden and next door wouldn’t have heard it.

You have to credit the chutzpah of Jorick Luisetto who as a 20-1 outsider and with the crowd all against him, swaggered to the ring to "We are the Champions." The Frenchman then achieved the impossible; he quietened the crowd. The roar of the opening rounds had subsided to a hum by the end. Marku was the more aggressive and landed more but his plodding one-paced style never had the calm Luisetto in trouble. The Albanian’s goading reflected frustration rather than dominance.

"Finish him!" screamed the boy behind me. But there was nothing to finish. My friend and I double-checked the exits, worried that things might turn ugly if "The Albanian King" was dethroned. Luisetto may look back at the (impressively fair) 78-75 scorecard and wonder what might have been if he’d shown a little more urgency. Marku later grumbled that Luisetto hadn’t been "on his level", an odd explanation for why an opponent has made you look so limited. His acolytes hadn’t got the knockout they craved but they still rolled out singing into the London night.

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