Fired-up Flintoff set for boxing debut
MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) –
Former England cricket star Andrew Flintoff is already contemplating more boxing bouts if his professional debut against Richard Dawson of the United States is a success.
“Freddie”, as he is known to cricket lovers around the world, will break new ground when the 34-year-old squares up to Dawson in a four-round heavyweight contest at Manchester Arena on Friday for his first professional bout.
Flintoff has been trained for the past five months by former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan and his son Shane, alongside Carl Frampton, the unbeaten Commonwealth super-bantamweight champion.
A former fast-bowling all-rounder, Flintoff has denied his foray into boxing is a gimmick for a ‘reality’ television show and insisted training for his ring debut has been the hardest thing he has done.
But having decided against taking the traditional route of coming through the amateur ranks first, Flintoff said he was contemplating a short-term boxing career if he defeated Dawson.
“It has been a hard road, the toughest thing I’ve ever done,” Flintoff said.
“I am getting a bug for the training, being fit and being around the sport. I got to be honest about it, I’m nearly 35. I’ve put all I can into this.
“It would be sad to have just one fight after all I have put into this, all the training and technical stuff it would be a waste.
“We will see where it takes us, I’m not going to get ahead of myself. I’m not going to say I am going to do this or do that. I am just having this fight and see where we go from that.”
McGuigan added: “He is not the finished article. He is not going to be a champion, he could have just a few professional fights, let’s be honest.
“I want him to get through it safely first and then he can say what he wants after that. I want him to feel good about what he has done.”
McGuigan also defended Flintoff against critics who believe the former Lancashire and England star has been dangerously fast-tracked to a professional boxing debut.
It took Flintoff two attempts to obtain a licence from the British Boxing Board of Control, in separate behind-closed-doors exhibition contests.
“People are saying he is disrespecting the game but it is the opposite side of the scale,” added McGuigan.
“He is publicising the sport, showing everything that is good about it.”
Flintoff, who won two Ashes series during his illustrious England career, was forced to retire at the age of 31 because of injury but said he was glad of the physical challenge of boxing as he’d no plans to join fellow former Test captain Michael Vaughan as a television cricket pundit.
“I never thought when I left cricket that I would get another chance in sport. I enjoy the adrenaline (of sport),” Flintoff said.
“The age I finished at, I was only 31, I was not ready to stop. I wanted to go back to Lancashire and captain them but I was not able to do that.
“I’m not ready to sit in a commentary box.”