Rio Ferdinand is launching a new career as a professional boxer, two years after he retired from football.The 38-year-old’s move into the ring is being backed by betting company Betfair, which announced the news on Tuesday.
Former Manchester United and England defender Ferdinand works as a TV pundit and he has his own clothing line.
“I’m doing this because it’s a challenge,” he said. “I’ve won titles and now I’m aiming for a belt.”
He has posted several social media videos in recent months showing him boxing and working with personal trainer Mel Deane.
Ferdinand, who won the Premier League six times and the Champions League once during his time in Manchester, may follow in the footsteps of former Birmingham City midfielder Curtis Woodhouse and former Crystal Palace forward Leon McKenzie, who became professional boxers after quitting football. Woodhouse became British super-lightweight champion.
Former England cricket captain Andrew Flintoff also launched a boxing career after retiring, winning his only pro bout in December 2012 against American Richard Dawson at Manchester Arena on points.
Ferdinand will be coached by Team GB coach and former WBC super-middleweight champion Richie Woodhall.
The former centre-back started his career with West Ham and also played for Leeds and QPR, making more than 500 career club appearances. He was capped 81 times for England.
Woodhouse told BBC Radio 5 live he was “shocked” to hear of Ferdinand’s career change.
“When it came up on my Twitter feed that Rio Ferdinand was going to become a professional boxer I thought I’d been hacked,” he said. “It’s not something you read every day is it?
“I’ve been retired three years myself and one thing I missed – and he’s probably going through himself at the minute – is the competitiveness of being an athlete.
“Once that’s taken away from you it’s very, very difficult to replace it, so that’s probably what he’s chasing – to get that competitiveness back in his life.”