Former England cricketer Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff has opened up about his startling decision to launch himself into possibly the most brutal game - professional boxing.
Flintoff was the hero of the victorious Ashes-winning team of 2005 and named BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Unfortunately, a series of injuries blighted the last five years of his career and he was forced to retire from professional cricket in 2010, admitting his body had beaten him.
Later he embarked on a successful television career, appearing as a team captain on the James Corden-hosted sports quiz ‘A League of Their Own’ and travelling to the remotest regions on Earth for the Discovery Channel. He’s also raised millions of pounds for charity.
Instead of settling into a comfortable lifestyle of golf, time with his young family and the occasional televised adventure abroad, he’s decided to take up a sport that those in the business describe starkly as a ‘hurting game’.
More shocking is that he doesn’t have any previous experience in the ring.
“It’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
“I played my last game of cricket at the age of 31 and I’m only 34 now. I’ve always loved boxing and I’m going to have a go at it and see where it takes us.
“I just really enjoy having a go at things. When you put yourself out there you put yourself up for a bit of criticism, but I’m not bothered. The people who criticise, what are they are doing? Criticising is an easy thing to do,” he added.
Flintoff will make his professional debut as a heavyweight at Manchester Arena on November 30, less than a week after his friend Ricky Hatton makes his comeback at the same venue.
He was inspired to take up this new career path after he met Barry McGuigan, the former featherweight world champion, last year.
He was interviewing the Irishman for a BBC documentary he was making on how depression affects sportsmen.
At the time, McGuigan was training the Belfast super-bantamweight Carl Frampton, and Flintoff asked whether he could throw a few punches.
“Barry put the pads on and I punched them,” recalled Flintoff.
“He said, ‘That’s all right, that is’, so I did a bit more. I thought nothing of it, but then a few months later he was having a meeting at my manager’s office. I popped my head around the door, joking, and said, ‘Is this about my fight, then?’ Barry turned round and asked me whether I was serious, and I said, ‘Why not?’ It just escalated from there,” he added.
"If you don't have to get up and train in the morning it's easy to eat absolute rubbish and have a beer. With the boxing it's been about refocusing. It’s been a lifestyle choice as well as just learning to do something new," Daily Mail quoted Flintoff as saying.
Flintoff, who is married with three young children, said his wife Rachael is also very supportive regarding his new career.
“She’s supportive. I think she’s just seeing me getting focused on something again. I’ll be honest: I wouldn’t be able to do it if she wasn’t supportive of it,” he insisted.
“I think some of the times I’ve come in from sparring and I’ve got fat lips and blood coming out of my nose she’s been a bit shocked, but she’s backing me to the hilt,” he said.
Talking about his new training regime, Freddie, who has been in full-time training for eight weeks, revealed, "I’m training nine or ten sessions a week. I’m sparring three times a week and reckon I’ve probably now sparred 80 rounds."
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