EXCLUSIVE: Team GB squad member discusses sparring Rio Ferdinand

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Since deciding to hang up his professional football boots, Rio Ferdinand has turned his attention to boxing and will hope to make his professional debut later this year.

The former footballer has teamed up with highly respected trainer Richie Woodhall and has ambitions of winning titles.

The ex-Manchester United centre-half will be supported by bookmakers at Betfair during his new project titled ‘Defender to Contender’.

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Many critics have been sceptical of the 39-year-olds switch-up.

However, heavyweight sensation Cheavon Clarke recently sparred with Ferdinand in Sheffield and has backed the Brit to be a success.

“I moved around with Rio in Sheffield. It was his first time and it was a great experience,” Clarke exclusively told World Boxing News.

“With him being an ex-footballer, he’s got that competitive spirit in him – he’s used to that element of competitiveness – and has transferred it over. He’s exceeding in what he is doing,” he added.

With an unprecedented six Premier League medals in the cabinet, it’s safe to say Ferdinand has implemented a winning formula in his career.

Quizzed upon his attributes in the ring, Clarke said: “All I’ll say on that is, he can handle himself.”

The Team GB star revealed Ferdinand’s desire has changed his opinion on the pundit’s move to boxing.

“He’s a very nice guy. He’s very down to earth, they don’t come more real than him from what I have seen.

"At first, I was like, ‘hmm, not sure about this,’ but as I said he’s obviously taken it seriously.

"With Richie Woodhall being there to coach him, he’s in the right company with the right coaching to help him excel."

Joe Hewlett is lead writer for World Boxing News. Follow Joe on Twitter @Hewlett95