Rio Ferdinand missed the ‘chemical’ of competition and sees boxing as ‘great way to get it back’

simon johnson

Rio Ferdinand has announced his extraordinary plans to become a professional boxer and hopes to fight for an English title next year.

The 38-year-old has already hired former WBC super-middleweight Champion and respected Team GB coach Richie Woodhall as his trainer.

Ferdinand, who won six Premier League titles and a Champions League crown with Manchester United during his football career as well as 81 England caps, is doing the 'Defender to Contender' project in conjunction with online betting company Betfair.

Speaking exclusively to Standard Sport, Ferdinand said: "A lot of people sit and watch huge fights, plus other sporting events and say 'I can do that' or 'they've messed it up'.

"There are a lot of armchair fans wanting to pass judgement. Well, I'm going to walk the walk and actually do it.

"I'm into keeping fit and one of the big things I have missed since retiring from football in 2015 is the competition, whether it be as a team or as an individual going one-on-one against a striker.

"I just miss that chemical that comes out of you. I have not been able to replace it. This is a great way to get that back.

"I'm doing this for many reasons. I'm doing this to test myself as a man, as a human being.

"Can I change sports? Can I be a respectable performer in other sports? Can my body get through it?

"Can I mentally get up early at 5-6am in the morning when it is dark and cold to go on long, dirty runs? Then get back, take my kids to school, go to the gym and eat properly all of the time.

"This is a test of my mind and body, that's the way I'm looking at it. I'm not looking at it to become the world champion, I'm not stupid."

Ferdinand is going to fight at Cruiserweight, but will have several weeks of training under Woodhall and his personal trainer Mel Deane before applying for a licence from the British Boxing Board of Control.

Woodhall went to Ferdinand's house to assess the former centre half's fitness and boxing ability before agreeing to become his trainer.

He 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 also helped Victoria Pendleton make the transition from Olympic cyclist to Cheltenham jockey last year in the ground-breaking ‘Switching Saddles’ challenge.