London (AFP) – Former England football captain Rio Ferdinand confirmed Tuesday he will train to become a professional boxer with the ultimate aim of challenging for a title belt.
The 38-year-old former Manchester United star, who retired from football in May 2015, is taking part in online betting firm Betfair’s “Defender to Contender” project and will be training with former WBC super-middleweight champion Richie Woodhall.
Ferdinand will be seeking to qualify for a British Boxing Board of Control licence before starting training and competing for a title belt.
“Boxing is an amazing sport for the mind and the body,” said Ferdinand. “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.”
Ferdinand, who will also work with personal trainer Mel Deane, added on Twitter: “It’s happening… Can’t wait to get started with the team @betfair have put together, @richiewoodhall and @meldeane #DefenderToContender.”
The ex-West Ham, Leeds, Manchester United and QPR defender, who currently works as a pundit with BT Sport and the BBC, will hold a press conference in London on Tuesday.
Woodhall, a former Olympic bronze medallist turned Team GB trainer, believes Ferdinand has the ability to turn professional.
“In all honesty, I think Rio can definitely box as a professional given time,” he said. “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.”
Ferdinand’s love of boxing is apparent on social media, with a picture on his Twitter profile showing him draped in the WBA, IBF and IBO heavyweight title belts of his friend Anthony Joshua.
The Londoner, who won 81 caps for England, was in attendance when Joshua defeated Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium in April and posed for pictures with the Olympic gold medallist.
There are also several videos on his Instagram page showing Ferdinand training with the gloves.
Former Sheffield United midfielder Curtis Woodhouse won the British light-welterweight title in 2012 after swapping football for boxing, while cricketer Andrew Flintoff won a one-off bout, of modest standard, against American Richard Dawson, having been mentored Barry McGuigan.
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