Former England cricket captain Andrew Flintoff is to return to professional sport it was announced on Thursday.
At a press conference called at the Manchester Evening News Arena it was confirmed that the former Lancashire man is to turn his hands, hands that took 226 test wickets and scored nearly 4000 runs, to boxing. The 34-year-old will take to the ring against a yet to be confirmed opponent in a heavyweight bout on a bill that he himself will top called ‘Freddie Flintoff: The Gloves Are Off’ on Friday 30 November.
Flintoff will be trained by former world champion Barry McGuigan, with his four months of progress from complete novice to professional boxer catalogued in a special two-part programme for Sky1. Upon the announcement McGuigan was insistent that this was not simply the ill-advised stunt that many within the boxing fraternity believe it to be.
“It’s not a one-off,” the Ulsterman told BBC Radio Manchester, who currently trains Commonwealth and IBF Inter-Continental super bantamweight title holder Carl Frampton, “He wants to fight a number of times. He has ambition, he wants to fight again.”
The Preston resident who made his England debut 14 years ago who is a self confessed boxing fan, and was ringside for Frampton’s last outing on the under of Carl Froch’s triumphant IBF super middleweight title bid, is under no illusions that the transition from cricketer to boxer will not be an easy one.
“This is an amazing opportunity to try a sport that I love, to be tutored by a man I respect and admire and, at the age of 34, the chance to become a professional sportsman again. It’s a huge challenge, probably the biggest I have ever undertaken, especially in such a short time-frame.”
One stumbling bloke remains between Flintoff and this venture into professional boxing, a license from the British Boxing Board of Control. And general secretary Robert Smith admits he is yet to receive an application. “Andrew Flintoff has not applied, nor has he been interviewed by anyone from the British Boxing Board of Control. An application can take three to four weeks or longer depending on the circumstances. He will have to pass medicals and there measures in place to see whether and applicant can actually box.”
This story has grabbed the attention of boxing and cricket fans alike and further stokes reports of a ring return for former two-weight world champion Ricky Hatton. Hatton, 33, is said to be near fighting shape and many ‘Hitman’ fans have moved to snap up tickets for the bill in the hope that it will include a home coming for Manchester’s own.
It is fair to say though that both fighters have a lot of paper work and preparation to complete if either is to step into the ring as part of the new boxing season that kicks off on Saturday.