Why Rio Ferdinand's boxing career will be just like Freddie Flintoff's

Ex-footballer Rio Ferdinand poses for the media during a press conference at York Hall, London

Rio Ferdinand announcing that he will be attempting to become a professional boxer at the age of 38 is the sort of announcement we all really should have seen coming.

After all, it has almost become the new trend within the realm of sports to catch the eye of the masses by switching professions. Nobody will probably cross over quite as profitably as Conor McGregor did with the assistance of Floyd Mayweather, but it remains a surefire shortcut into the headlines.

For the record, a certain degree of Rio’s motivation seems respectable.

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“It’s something for me to focus on after the last couple of years,” Ferdinand told the Telegraph.

Rio’s wife Rebecca Ellison passed away in 2015 after a short battle with breast cancer, leaving the retired defender a single father to three children: Lorenz, Tate and Tia.

Ferdinand in training

“I’ve been through quite a few things in my life and this is a way of trying to channel that aggression, that anger sometimes, into something I can be really focused on,” he explained.

To that extent, the venture makes a degree of sense. Anyone who has ever put a pair of boxing gloves on for even just a workout will tell you the release it can provide and the focus it requires, offering an escape from the rest of the world around you.

And Rio would be foolish not to capitalise on his fame in the process, hence why Betfair were keen to help make it happen. The bookmakers also helped Victoria Pendleton move from Olympic cycling to horse racing.

Just don’t expect much to come of it, that’s all.

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This will likely resemble cricket hero Freddie Flintoff’s one-and-done boxing career five years ago. Flintoff was documented preparing for his debut, won a very amateurish four-rounder against a carefully-selected opponent and then that was it.

Rio and his team, including former world champion boxer Richie Woodhall who’ll be overseeing the training, haven’t even secured a boxing licence yet. Nor do they seem completely certain at which weight exactly their man will compete.

The boxing community doesn’t seem overly offended by Ferdinand’s venture, at least nowhere near to the degree they stood against McGregor’s bout in August, pretty much showing that their chief problem with the Irish UFC superstar was his mouth (and his ability to outearn almost the entire sport).


Of course, one thing that is for certain is that the entire road to the ring will be filmed for a documentary and other TV spots. A lot of the money in this stunt comes before a bell even rings.

But if Ferdinand finds a degree of personal relief in the whole thing, it is probably worth him going through with it all the way to the day he earns an official record on boxing stats site BoxRec.

What matters most to the ex-England international is remaining a hero to his kids, no matter what.

He said: “My kids just said, ‘Dad, don’t get knocked out’. I’ve got to maintain that respect when I walk through the front door so I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure I don’t!

“My two boys do a bit of contact stuff themselves – Thai boxing and boxing along with football and rugby. They are really excited.”

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