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Rio Ferdinand eyed a boxing title before Board refused license

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World Boxing News looks back on sportsperson Rio Ferdinand and his attempts to become a professional boxer.

In September 2017, the former Manchester United, Leeds United, and England defender had a new dream.

Not long after retiring from the beautiful game in 2015, the world-class footballer wanted to try his hand in another field.

A love of our sport led Ferdinand to confirm an eyebrow-raising attempt to become a boxer.

At the age of 38, and after almost two decades at the top of his profession, Ferdinand heard his name mentioned in the same sentence as coveted boxing titles.

Ferdinand aimed to emulate ex-Birmingham City and Sheffield United man Curtis Woodhouse, who won a British title during his career in pugilism.

Since stepping away from football, Ferdinand suffered a personal tragedy and kept himself busy with TV work.

A run in the pro ranks beckoned for Ferdinand, though, provided he made the grade. Bookmakers Betfair even backed his bid.

Even former boxing champion Richie Woodhall entered the fray as a coach to oversee the one-time England captain’s brave move.

“Woodhall said: “In all honesty, I think Rio can definitely box as professional, given time. He has natural power in his right hand.

“He’s extremely fit and is very enthusiastic about learning, which is encouraging. Style-wise, he’s very raw.

“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.

“He definitely has the potential to win a title in the future,” predicted the former world title challenger despite Ferdinand pushing 40.


Speaking about his bid, Rio added: “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. This challenge is the perfect opportunity to show people what’s possible.

Rio Ferdinand Boxing


“It’s a challenge I’m not taking lightly. Clearly, not everyone can become a professional boxer.

“But with the team of experts, Betfair is putting together and the drive I have to succeed, anything is possible,” stated Ferdinand.

Following months of training, the British Boxing Board of Control denied Ferdinand a license. He then called off his plans in May 2018.

Ferdinand is not the only sportsman to try his hand in recent years. Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff picked himself off the canvas to win his first pro bout in 2012.

Flintoff was roundly panned for his ring skills, though. Both did the right thing to walk away.

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