Rio Ferdinand has stressed he is ready to “walk the walk” after it was announced he will attempt to become a professional boxer, with the ultimate aim of challenging for a title.
The 38-year-old former England captain, who retired from football in 2015, is taking part in Betfair’s ‘Defender to Contender’ project and will be training with former WBC super-middleweight champion Richie Woodhall.
A press release from Betfair on Tuesday said Ferdinand would be seeking to qualify for a British boxing Board of Control (BBBC) licence before starting training to fight in “a succession of bouts in 2017/18 with the ultimate aim to compete for a title belt.”
Speaking to the London Evening Standard, the ex-Manchester United defender 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?
— DefenderToContender (@Betfair) September 19, 2017
“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 added as part of the Betfair press release: “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.”
BBBC general secretary Robert Smith said that Ferdinand had yet to apply for a boxer’s licence but said there was no reason he would be treated any differently to the likes of fellow ex-footballers.
Leon McKenzie and Curtis Woodhouse and retired cricketer Andrew Flintoff , who were all granted licences by the governing body.
Hey @rioferdy5 when you’re boxing does Vidic come in and take the punches whilst you cover round the back with me? 😉
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) September 19, 2017
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) September 19, 2017
Boxing promoter Barry Hearn, meanwhile, has accused Ferdinand of being “totally naive” and feels talk of him fighting for titles should not be taken seriously.
Hearn told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It’s laughable isn’t it? He is being totally naive and is totally underestimating boxing.
“But he has the choice of what he wants to do with his time and his life.
“The authorities are there to make sure the sport is safe, and that involves very tough tests to make sure he is capable of getting into the ring.
“If he can achieve that, let him have his chance, it’s not a problem. But let’s not take it seriously and talk about fighting for titles and things like that.
“I wish him luck, I hope he enjoys it, but be very careful because it’s dangerous.”
Woodhall, a former Olympic bronze medallist turned Team GB trainer, said: “I think Rio can definitely box as a professional given time.
“He has all the natural ingredients…and definitely has potential to win a title in the future.”
Bookmakers Betfair previously backed Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton’s transformation into a Cheltenham jockey in the ‘Switching Saddles’ challenge.
Antonio Conte and Arsene Wenger came up against one another for the fourth time in four months as Arsenal and Chelsea played out a goalless Premier League draw at the Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Wenger got the better of the Blues boss to win the FA Cup in May, while also winning the Community Shield following a penalty shoot-out.
Following a pre-season friendly in China, this was another level London derby between the two sides as Chelsea finished with 10 men.
Much of the focus was on the two premier frontmen with Alexandre Lacazette and Alvaro Morata locking horns and here we analyse their performances.
Goals – 0
Shots – 2
Shots on target – 0
Touches – 38
Key passes – 0
Dribbles – 2
Dispossessed – 2
Aerials won – 4
Goals – 0
Shots – 2
Shots on target – 1
Touches – 23
Key passes – 0
Dribbles – 0
Dispossessed – 1
Aerials won – 2
Not often this is said of Arsenal players but they bullied the Spaniard at times. Conte has put their record signing on a regime to gain some muscle and on the evidence of this performance, he’ll need some extra hours in the gym.
Too many times he hit the deck with relative ease and for a player of his lanky frame that’s got to change. In his defence, though, he came out on top in his personal duel with Shkodran Mustafi but missed his only real chance of note.
It’s been said before how isolated he is without a partner up top, specifically Eden Hazard, and that point was further emphasised against Arsenal. Their build-up play was slick and enterprising but then it fell to his feet and would break down. Ultimately, he spent most of the day on the deck instead of trying to get the ball in the back of the net.
Will the real Lacazette please stand up? Arsenal fans must be wondering where the prolific frontman who blazed a goalscoring trail in France is because he was largely anonymous against the Blues.
David Luiz sucked the life out of Lacazette by giving him no breathing room but he suffered from a dire lack of service with perhaps the absence of Mesut Ozil hurting him most. His link-up play was the most disappointing aspect of his game, though as he repeatedly gave the ball away.
And he had chances to score, a bit more quality was required in a game which was bereft of it. He was hauled off just past the hour for Alexis Sanchez in a peculiar swap as the pair should be playing together but it wasn’t the Frenchman’s day.
10th min CHANCE: Chelsea start on the front foot and Morata shows some lovely early touches and he almost gets on the scoresheet. Willian finds Alonso and the Spaniard gets himself between the two centre-backs to head just off target. It wouldn’t have counted anyway as he’s flagged for offside.
47th min CHANCE: Morata sprints free and beats Mustafi but instead of going for it himself he tries to flick the ball to Willian and Arsenal can clean up the danger.
88th min SUB: Andreas Christensen replaces the Spain international after Luiz is sent off.
16th min CHANCE: Slick interplay between Ramasey and Bellerin sees the former slip a dangerous ball into the front post and Lacazette times his run perfectly to hit a first-time shot which is comfortably gathered by Courtois.
41st min CHANCE: The Frenchman should have scored. Ramsey gets the break of the ball to squirm through Chelsea’s defence and he nips his shot against the post only for the waiting Lacazette to awkwardly fire over the bar from point-blank range.
66th min SUB: Lacazette’s miserable day is brought to an end as he’s subbed off for Alexis Sanchez.
A lightweight display but he got the better of Mustafi. Missed his sole chance to score but will certainly have better days in front of goal.
Arsenal’s club-record signing can score goals but he missed a sitter in this one and seemed out of sync with many of his team-mates.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com
Barcelona’s record signing Ousmane Dembele is unlikely to play again until 2018 after suffering a ruptured hamstring during his team’s victory at Getafe on Saturday.
The French starlet was injured midway during the opening period after overstretching his muscle while attempting a back-heel, and underwent further tests on Sunday morning after returning to Barcelona.
The results of those tests were far worse than expected, with a statement from the club confirming: “Unfortunately, he has ruptured the tendon in his femoral bicep in his left thigh.
“The player will be operated on by Doctor Sakari Orava in Finland this week. He is expected to be out for between three and a half months and four months.”
Dembele’s prolonged absence provides a big opportunity to Gerard Deulofeu, who replaced him from the bench at Getafe. Another potential beneficiary is Denis Suarez, who scored the equaliser as Barca came back from one down to triumph 2-1, while Andre Gomes, Arda Turan and Rafinha could also receive more playing time – although the latter two are currently injured.
Before the full extent of Dembele’s injury was known, manager Ernesto Valverde pronounced himself delighted with the character shown by his players to secure their comeback win at Getafe, although he admitted the overall quality of his team’s performance was lacking.
Barca can consider themselves fortunate to have escaped with three points after struggling to create many clear chances aside from Denis’s equaliser and the late winner from Paulinho, and Valverde believed the bumpy nature of the pitch at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez hindered his team.
“We really struggled,” he said. “It was a difficult game on a very tough pitch. It was a good test for us, especially after they went ahead.
“We were struggling to get past their back line. We were banging against a wall and we couldn’t get through. We weren’t playing quickly enough and the pitch didn’t help because it was very dry.
“But we deserve a lot of credit for turning it around. That means a great deal for us.”
For once, Barca were not able to rely upon Lionel Messi to rescue them with the Argentine restricted to a quiet performance aside from a brilliant free-kick which produced an even better save from Getafe stopper Vicente Guaita.
But the squad’s lesser lights took their opportunity to shine, with Denis and Paulinho netting the all-important goals while fellow subs Deulofeu produced a bright display from the bench.
And Valverde happily paid tribute to those super-subs, saying: “Deulofeu did very well in breaking their defensive lines, and Denis contributed a lot to the game as well as scoring.
“The goals should give confidence to the players who scored them. It’s important because it shows that we have a full squad and everyone can help us.”
Matchwinner Paulinho, meanwhile, was understandably delighted to secure victory with his first goal for the club, saying: “I’m so happy to have scored the winner. It was a tough game and the most important thing was the three points.”