Sat | Jul 21, 2018

Former Man U defender now eyes boxing belts

Published:Wednesday | September 20, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Ex-footballer Rio Ferdinand poses for the media during a press conference at York Hall, London yesterday.


When Rio Ferdinand hung up his boots two years ago, a career competing in sports appeared over.

Coaching jobs weren't considered. Only television punditry kept the former Manchester United and England captain in football.

There was still something missing for Ferdinand in retirement. Leaving the field didn't dim his competitive streak. The former defender was missing an outlet to channel the aggression that helped him win every major honour with United.

Ferdinand has found it. At 38, he is planning an unlikely transition to become a professional boxer.

"It's a chance to really get my competitive juices flowing again," Ferdinand told The Associated Press. "I really do miss that."

There are financial benefits, too. Ferdinand is being bankrolled by a bookmaker whose branding was plastered over the backdrops at yesterday's announcement.

"I don't look at this as a circus," Ferdinand told the media inside York Hall, a shabby but renowned east London boxing venue. "I'm not trying to disrespect anyone. I'm taking it seriously."

It is no stunt, Ferdinand maintained, despite the links to a betting company renowned for often tasteless stunts.

There is, however, no prospect of Ferdinand entering the ring soon. A professional licence is yet to be granted by the British Boxing Board.

"I've got the utmost respect for the boxing fraternity and I'm not saying I'm going to be a world champion," Ferdinand said. "I'm saying there are loads of hurdles to get over and I'm going to meet them head-on."

Since his wife Rebecca died of breast cancer in 2015, Ferdinand has three children to bring up.

"They just said, 'Dad, don't get knocked out'," Ferdinand said in an interview. "I've got to maintain that respect once I walk through the front door. So I'll be doing everything I can do not to get knocked out."