Rio Ferdinand aims to become boxing champion and fight for a title
Rio Ferdinand will aim to become a boxing champion after confirming he is taking up the sport. As exclusively revealed by Telegraph Sport on Monday, the former Manchester United and England star will attempt to enter the ring for the first time at the age of 38. Announcing the move as part of a project entitled ‘Defender to Contender’, Ferdinand denied the move was a publicity stunt. The BBC and BT Sport pundit plans to fight a succession of bouts in the next year, with the ultimate aim of competing for a title. Ferdinand, whose switch to boxing is being backed by the bookmaker Betfair and will be chronicled in a documentary, will be trained by former WBC super-middleweight champion turned Great Britain trainer Richie Woodhall and his own personal trainer, former rugby union centre Mel Deane. A number of current and ex-boxers will also be employed by Ferdinand to help him prepare for specific fights and hone specific skills. Ferdinand said: “I’ve always been one to set goals and keep improving. Since retiring from football, I’ve still been training intensely and I’m in better physical condition than ever. I get no bigger buzz than when I’m training and this is an opportunity to prove myself all over again. “This definitely isn’t a stunt. I’ll be undertaking an intensive boxing training regime over the next year under the expert guidance of Richie Woodhall and Mel Deane. We’ll take things step by step and build up slowly but the end goal is to compete for a title belt. @anthony_joshua dug deep & showed it's great having talent but when all said & done grit & determination in the trenches is what gets you through real testing times. Salute the champ! #klitschko showed real class in defeat too...something I wish I could of had a bit more of if I'm really honest! A post shared by Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) on Apr 30, 2017 at 1:06am PDT “I’ll firstly need to be granted a boxing licence to compete professionally. From there if successful, the plan would be to build up slowly, starting with a fight at four rounds before moving up to six, eight, 10 and then eventually 12. I’m building from the bottom up and will need to gain experience steadily under the guidance of my team.” He added: “Boxing is an amazing sport for the mind and the body. I have always had a passion for it and this challenge is the perfect opportunity to show people what’s possible. It’s a challenge I’m not taking lightly. “Clearly, not everyone can become a professional boxer, but with the team of experts Betfair are putting together and the drive I have to succeed, anything is possible.” Boxing session this morning with @meldeane12 ... heavyweight division up for grabs... @tonybellew @mrdavidhaye @anthony_joshua Lets Av It... you want some �������� A post shared by Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) on Jan 11, 2017 at 3:07am PST Woodhall said: “In all honesty, I think Rio can definitely box as a professional, given time. He has natural power in his right hand, is extremely fit and is very enthusiastic to learn which is encouraging. “Style-wise, he’s very raw and I’ll have to develop this which will take time but he has all the natural ingredients, height and reach advantages over boxers in his weight division and definitely has potential to win a title in the future.” Betfair, which successfully helped Victoria Pendleton transition from Olympic cycling queen to Cheltenham jockey in the ground-breaking ‘Switching Saddles’ challenge two years ago, backed Ferdinand to succeed as a boxer. Credit: BETFAIR It brand director UK & Ireland, Stephen Mault, said: “Betfair is dedicated to supporting Rio Ferdinand throughout this ground-breaking sporting transformation. “Rio stood out as the perfect personality to undertake this challenge, as he knows all about the hard work and dedication it takes to succeed. “With Rio’s sporting pedigree, our support network, and a lot of hard work, we’re all confident that Rio can compete for a belt.” Ferdinand’s journey can be followed at www.defendertocontender.com and through @Betfair on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.