Andrew Flintoff and Sonny Bill Williams among sports stars to switch to the ring as Rio Ferdinand launches boxing career

James Piercy 19/09/2017
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Via Rio Ferdinand's official Twitter handle

Rio Ferdinand took the sporting world by surprise on Tuesday by announcing his attempt at a professional boxing career. The former Manchester United and England defender has included boxing as part of his fitness regime for a few years, and is now set to go one step further.

Here’s a look at five other stars who made a switch to boxing after excelling in other sports.

ANTHONY MUNDINE

Given he is the son of a former boxer, Mundine’s move into the ring was largely unexpected. Having conquered the NRL, he stepped into the ring in 2000 and has amassed an impressive 47-8 record and held the WBA super middleweight title for five years between 2003 and 2008 as well as the IBO middleweight strap. His most famous victory was over former pound-for-pound king ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley in 2013.

Anthony Mundine defeated "Sugar" Shane Mosley in 2013.

Anthony Mundine defeated “Sugar” Shane Mosley in 2013.

SONNY BILL WILLIAMS

Rugby’s man of many talents made his pro debut in 2009, beating Garry Gurr via TKO. The two-time World Cup winner has gone to win a further six bouts at heavyweight, with two knockouts. Williams has claimed boxing has made him a “mentally tougher” sportsman as he’s managed to balance both his sporting loves.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 31: Sonny Bill Williams throws a left at Chauncy Welliver during their heavyweight bout during the Footy Show Fight Night at Allphones Arena on January 31, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Sonny Bill Williams balanced a rugby career and professional boxing for four years.

QUADE COOPER

Following in the bootsteps of Sonny Bill Williams, Cooper fought on the undercard of his friend in 2013 beating Barry Dunnett at cruiserweight via a first round knockout. The mercurial fly-half now boasts a 3-0 record having despatched Aussies Warren Tresidder and Jack McInnes, although has received criticism for the quality of his opponents who have either been no-hopers or washed-up veterans.

Quade Cooper also made the switch from rugby to boxing.

Quade Cooper also made the switch from rugby to boxing.

ANDREW FLINTOFF

The former England all-rounder enjoyed success in his one and only bout – beating American Richard Dawson after being knocked down in the second round – but it was branded it a “a circus” and “laughing stock”. Flintoff’s celebrity status ensured his fight received considerably more publicity than other, more seasoned, British fighters.

Flintoff is the most recent high-profile sportsperson to switch to boxing.

Flintoff is the most recent high-profile sportsperson to switch to boxing.

TONYA HARDING

With her figure skating career in tatters after the attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan in the lead up to the 1994 Winter Olympics, Harding took to the ring in 2002 in a celebrity boxing event before turning pro in 2003 on the undercard of a Mike Tyson fight. Harding lost a split decision against Samantha Browning but fought six more times in the space of just 16 months finishing with a 4-3-0 record as asthma forced her to retire.

Harding had a mildly successful boxing career.

Harding had a mildly successful boxing career.

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Adalaide Byrd should never judge another meaningful bout after farcical scorecard in GGG/Canelo draw

Andy Lewis 17/09/2017
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Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez proved every bit the dream fight anticipated before the ineptitude of the Las Vegas judges tarnished one of the great modern middleweight title battles.

All three scorers saw it differently but their combined efforts resulted in a draw – Dave Moretti tallying it 115-113 in favour of Golovkin, Don Trella 114-114 level and Adalaide Byrd conjuring one of the most nonsensical cards in recent memory by scoring it 118-110 for Alvarez.

The consensus was that Golovkin, who forced the issue for the most part and out-landed Canelo, won the fight, and even what had been a heavily pro-Alvarez crowd angrily booed the outcome.

According to official statistics, Triple G landed 218 of 703 thrown (31 per cent), while Alvarez connected with 169 of 505 (34 per cent). Golovkin landed more punches in 10 of the 12 rounds.

The Kazakh labelled the decision “bad for boxing” and he is absolutely right to feel aggrieved.

The result left a bad taste, and while it fell short of being an outright robbery – it was a close fight of contrasting styles with room for different interpretations – Byrd’s wretched card made it appear exactly like a robbery.

For her to call it 10 rounds to two for Canelo goes way beyond the realm of incompetence with ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas going as far to label it as “corruption”.

With Alvarez perceived as the superstar fighter, there was always a fear something like this could happen, as like everything else in Vegas, it seems that the scoring follows the money.

“The 118-110 card is not correct, this person doesn’t understand boxing,” complained Golovkin “I controlled every round. Maybe I give him three or four, that’s it.

“I pressed all the time. I believe I won and you can see in people’s reaction that they felt the same. All the fans know who the real champion is.

“I controlled him with my left jab… so many punches. Maybe not the right hand because Canelo is not real Mexican style, I am real Mexican style. He is a dancer.”

Canelo Alvarez maneuvers against Gennady Golovkin

Canelo Alvarez maneuvers against Gennady Golovkin

Whenever you get bogus judging, the narrative is always that boxing as a sport doesn’t help itself, but the blame should be apportioned far more specifically.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission appointed Byrd despite her having a track record best described as inconsistent. They have managed to sully the fight of the year and should be held accountable. Byrd should never judge another meaningful bout.

As it was, she gave only the fourth and the seventh to Golovkin, despite his clear domination of the middle rounds.

Canelo may have pinched the early frames, but once Triple G settled into his rhythm, a clear pattern emerged, with the Kazakh applying constant pressure with clever footwork, backing up his foe with his jab and Canelo responding with sporadic but eye-catching bursts.

All three judges gave the first two to Alvarez, with only Byrd awarding him the third, while the trio were in agreement that Golovkin won the fourth.

The fifth was more clearly a Triple G round with him pinning Canelo on the ropes and landing flush with a huge right hand. Naturally, Byrd scored it for Canelo.

The sixth was closer. Canelo’s brilliant defensive work was a feature of the fight and his ability to slip and ride right hands kept him in the contest.

That said, he could do little to prevent Triple G’s onslaught in the seventh and he looked fatigued in the face of the Kazakh’s relentless stalking.

The eighth went the same way and despite a vicious short uppercut drawing gasps from the crowd, Alvarez was second best again in the ninth.

The 10th had everyone on their feet as the two traded big shots. Again, Golovkin was the one asking the questions with Canelo able to fight in spots and keep it competitive.

A pulsating climax ensued with both men in the centre of the ring loading up power shots as the final bell rang. It was a fight that delivered on all of the hype and the demand for a rematch will be huge. It would have been even without Byrd’s unwelcome contribution.

Golovkin proved that while he may be 35 and has now plateaued as a fighter, he is still the man to beat in the middleweight division.

Canelo, meanwhile, once and for all shook off any suggestion of him being protected and the erroneous scoring shouldn’t detract from his skill and bravery.

“If the people want it, then yes [we will have a rematch],” said Canelo. “He didn’t beat me. It was a draw. I always said I was going to be a step ahead of him. We’ll fight in the second one, but I’ll win.”

Golovkin added: “The rematch is a question for the promoters, I am ready. But it cannot be the same again, when you win the rounds and they call it a draw. That is very bad for boxing.”

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Gennady Golovkin's Las Vegas showdown with Saul Alvarez ends in a draw

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Gennady Golovkin retained his three world middleweight titles Saturday, fighting to a draw with Mexican star Canelo Alvarez in a showdown for middleweight supremacy that lived up the hype.

The 35-year-old Golovkin, making his Las Vegas debut, kept hold of the World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation belts in front of a crowd of 22,358 at the T-Mobile Arena.

Judge Dave Moretti scored the tense battle 114-114. Dan Trella saw it 115-113 for Golovkin but Adalaide Byrd had it one-sided, 118-110, for Alvarez.

Byrd’s lopsided score didn’t reflect the explosive drama of a bout in which Golovkin moved forward aggressively while Alvarez was the counter-puncher with fast hands.

“This was a real drama show,” Golovkin said. “I want to thank all my fans for supporting me.

“Of course I want the rematch. This was a real fight.”

Asked if he thought he won, Golovkin said, “Look I still have the belts and I am still the champion.”

The baby-faced champion with the steel jaw is considered one of the fittest athletes in boxing, but Alvarez was also well-prepared for a fight which both needed to validate their places in history.

Golovkin won most of the early rounds but then got hammered a few times with Alvarez’s uppercuts and right hands and seemed to be the more tired of the two near the end.

Golovkin established himself early with his stinging jab, all the while effectively cutting off the ring. There was no feeling-out process in this one as both fighters came to fight from the opening bell and tried to land big punches early.

Golovkin said he expected Alvarez’s game plan to include a few surprises and the former two-time champion Alvarez didn’t disappoint.

In the fourth round Alvarez tried to press the attack, but he paid for it as Golovkin got the better of those exchanges.

The 27-year-old Alvarez’s best round was the 10th, when he stunned Golovkin with a vicious right hand to the head. Alvarez tried to finish him off but Golovkin survived and once he shook off the cobwebs the two continued their brawl on the ropes and in the centre of the ring.

By the time it reached the 12th round, both boxers looked exhausted. Alvarez charged out of his corner looking for the knockout and Golovkin finished the round with a wild flurry of lefts and rights.

Alvarez moved to 49-1-2 with 34 knockouts and Golovkin remained undefeated at 37-0-1 with 33 knockouts after a fight that was two years in the making.

Boxing fans will be hoping the contest is the launching point of an extended rivalry like those of Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera and Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti.

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