Rylan Charlton ready to capitalise on Florian Marku anger in grudge match

Upon arrival at Wembley's Hilton Hotel on Tuesday morning, Rylan Charlton put his luggage to one side and joined the back of the Covid-19 testing queue as he prepared to enter Matchroom's fight bubble for a second time.

The undefeated British welterweight was last here back in October, when he sent shockwaves rippling through the UK scene by defying the odds to knock out highly-rated prospect Joe Laws inside three rounds, a win which catapulted him into the domestic picture out of nowhere.

Little did he know, however, that his next opponent was standing just a few metres away at the front of the line.

On Saturday night Charlton, 28, will settle his long-running feud with Albania's Florian Marku at the SSE Arena, where they will lock horns in a the chief-support bout on the undercard of David Avanesyan and Josh Kelly's European welterweight title scrap.

Their brief encounter in the Covid-testing queue offered a chance for both men to strike fear into the other's heart four days out from their highly-billed grudge match.

Marku turned and triggered a brief stare-down which felt more awkward than it did tense – especially from my own point of view given I was stood in the thick of it all – and Charlton was slightly baffled by the whole thing.

"He couldn't stop looking at me!" he laughed.

"He wants to turn it into like a bad blood fight, but I'm chilled. He's the one with the bad blood.

"I said morning to him in the games room on the first day here and he went, 'No morning!'

"So I said morning again and he said, 'No morning!' So I was like sweet, it is half nine but…

"I've got nothing against him. He just likes to make a song and dance out of everything to hype the fight."

Charlton, who has six wins and a draw to show for his seven professional contests thus far, heads into this spicy showdown with Marku as the underdog, a role he thrived in against Laws last October.

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  • His fiery rival has a similar record of seven wins and one draw, although the single blotch on his record, which came against Jamie Stewart back in December, was universally considered a robbery.

    A former kickboxing world champion, there are high hopes for Marku under the management of Sam Jones and the promotional banner of Eddie Hearn's Matchroom, not least from the man himself, who is already calling out some of Britain's top 147lbs fighters.

    Charlton, though, is not convinced his fellow 28-year-old is the real deal.

    He said: "It's gonna be a test, yeah. He's strong, he's fit and he's wearing eight ounce gloves.

    "Anyone who trains for eight weeks, puts eight-ounce gloves on and gets in that ring is gonna be dangerous.

    "But I don't really rate him that much. I wasn't impressed by his last fight [against Stewart]. It was rubbish.

    "I think he did deserve to win it, but it was close.

    "If you're gonna be this person that you portray yourself to be, world champion, beating all of the welterweights, calling out the likes of Conor Benn, whose levels above him, and he's getting draws against Jamie Stewart – he might have won but he made a meal out of it – he's not what he portrays himself to be at all."

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    Marku, a naturally bullish and confrontational character, was left seething after the draw with Stewart, and at times this week he has resembled a man still bubbling with the fury and dismay that result kindled. 'TNT' is a man on a mission at Wembley Arena.

    He has regularly stressed his desire not to leave it in the hands of the judges again on Saturday night, and Charlton thinks that could play perfectly into his heavy hands.

    "He's just an angry person in general, isn't he? He's fuming. I don't think he knows how to have some chill about him," the Norwich fighter said.

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    "I feel like [him going for the knockout] might work in my favour. I don't really know. I'm just gonna get in there and do exactly what I do.

    "He might be worried about letting it go to the judges, so he's probably gonna come at me a little bit stronger, but that's just gonna make my night easier because he's gonna walk onto my shots."

    With all eyes on Marku and his ambitious plans to shake up the welterweight division, Charlton is more than happy to creep up from underneath the spotlight and steal the show once again.

    "I don't mind being the underdog, I probably am the underdog in this fight," he admitted.

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    "He's the favourite, it's Marku vs Charlton. So I'd say I am the underdog again, but I don't mind. I'm still gonna get in there and do the same job.

    "It's good for me really that I'm getting in with him because he's got a big profile just like Laws, so I can get a big profile after I beat him and then I won't be the underdog.

    "I'll be the favourite and I'll have Eddie Hearn backing me. He's still just trying to use me as bait!"

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