Rio Ferdinand to retrain as a professional boxer

Former England footballer will backed by betting firm Betfair

Rio Ferdinand boxing
Rio Ferdinand is embarking on a boxing career
(Image credit: Betfair/Twitter)

Former Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand has announced a change of sporting career… he is training to become a professional boxer.

The 38-year-old, who retired from football two years ago, will be backed by betting company Betfair as part of its ‘Defender to Contender’ project.

This summer Ferdinand posted social media video clips of him boxing training with personal coach Mel Deane. Betfair approached Ferdinand with the idea of making the switch and the BBC reports that the firm will help him qualify for his British Boxing Board of Control licence.

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“I’m doing this because it’s a challenge,” he said. “I’ve won titles and now I’m aiming for a belt.”

Ferdinand will be coached by Richie Woodhall, a former WBC super-middleweight champion. Woodhall says Ferdinand has the potential to win a title.

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“In all honesty, I think Rio can definitely box as a professional given time,” said Woodhall. “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.”

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Ferdinand said his move into boxing is not a stunt.

“I’ve always been one to set goals and keep improving,” he said. “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.”

Ferdinand is not the first sportsman to move into the fight game. Former footballers Curtis Woodhouse and Leon McKenzie both became professional boxers and England cricketer Andrew Flintoff also had one pro bout.

Betfair also backed Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton when she switched sports to become a jockey.

After Ferdinand’s announcement, football and boxing fans had their say on Twitter.

Some were supportive…

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...Others not so much.

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Meanwhile, some betting companies poked fun.

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