Rio Ferdinand Announces 'Defender to Contender' Professional Boxing Plans

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 27:  Rio Ferdinand of BT Sport looks on during the Emirates FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on May 27, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Former England and Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand has announced a comeback to the sporting world as he seeks to become a professional boxer.

Sky Sports News had reported the 38-year-old would make a "major news announcement" on Tuesday. He posted on his Twitter account:

Ferdinand also features in the following clip from Betfair previewing the "Defender to Contender" challenge he will be involved in:

In a press release sent to Bleacher Report, the former United man said he was excited about the challenge ahead:

"When Betfair approached me about the Defender to Contender challenge, the chance to prove myself in a new sport was a real draw.

"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."

In the release, it's noted Betfair will aid Ferdinand in his attempts to gain a British Boxing Board of Control licence before he competes in his first professional outing.

The defender brought the curtain down on a tremendous football career in 2015, having won six Premier League titles and the UEFA Champions League with the Red Devils. Ferdinand, a former England captain, also represented the national team 81 times.

Ferdinand has taken a keen interest in boxing previously and was at Wembley in April to see Anthony Joshua's epic heavyweight win over Wladimir Klitschko.

He's previously posted clips of himself involved in boxing training on social media, including this recent one on Instagram:

It's an announcement that'll surprise people, and Ferdinand's former Manchester United team-mate Gary Neville couldn't resist a joke at his friend's expense:

However, it's clear from his social media activity that Ferdinand remains in impeccable shape, and it's a transition that has been seen before.

Leon McKenzie, the former Norwich City and Coventry City striker, had 11 professional fights after bringing the curtain down on his football career; he retired from boxing after a loss to Cello Renda last month but won on nine of his outings.

The most high-profile example of an English footballer making the transition is Curtis Woodhouse, though. The midfielder won the British title in 2014 and reacted to Ferdinand's decision on social media:

"If he's fit and passes all the medical checks good on him," added Woodhouse in another post. "He would be under huge pressure, but I bet he's missed that buzz."

Another English sporting legend to try his hand at boxing is cricketer Andrew Flintoff, who had one professional fight in 2014, which he won.

While it's not anticipated that Ferdinand will be in the ring many times, there's no doubt plenty will tune in to see his professional debut if and when he does take to the ring.

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