Rio Ferdinand to embark on journey to become professional boxer

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Rio Ferdinand, the 38-year old retired England defender, gave sports fans something to talk about today when he confirmed he will make a transition to professional boxing. 

Details are still forthcoming, but what we know so far is that betting site Betfair will back the Denmark Hill native as part of their 'Defender to Contender' programme.

The announcement wasn't exactly a shock, with rumours circulating for a while that the man who capped 81 times for England might make the switch.

Ferdinand had formerly posted videos of himself doing pad work with trainer Mel Deane.

The football star said he began utilising boxing training as a way of coping with grief after the death of his wife Rebecca two years ago.

He may also have been in search of a competitive challenge following his retirement from football in May 2015

"I'm doing this because it's a challenge," Ferdinand said.

"I've won titles and now I'm aiming for a belt. Boxing is an amazing sport for the mind and the body. I have always had a passion for it and this challenge is the perfect opportunity to show people what’s possible.

"It’s a challenge I’m not taking lightly, clearly not everyone can become a professional boxer, but with the team of experts Betfair are putting together and the drive I have to succeed, anything is possible.”

He is by no means the first sportsperson to make a switch like this - and no, we're not talking about Conor McGregor for a change.

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The former Norwich player Leon McKenzie and former Sheffield United midfielder Curtis Woodhouse made the switch to boxing in 2013 and 2006, respectively. Neither men fared as bad as would be expected: McKenzie won eight out of 11 bouts, and Woodhouse 22 out of 29.

But, the former Manchester United and QPR player will have to put some serious work in if he wants to come anywhere near their success.

Two videos shown here for your viewing pleasure show Ferdinand hard at work on the pads with Deane.

Whilst both are clearly a parody, watching the retired footballer slap the pads is about as cringe as watching a Box-Fit class down the local Fitness First. 

His trainer, Team GB coach Richie Woodhall, has a lot of confidence in his potential. 

"I think Rio can definitely box as a professional given time," said Woodhall. "He has natural power in his right hand, is extremely fit and is very enthusiastic to learn which is encouraging.

"Style wise, he's very raw and I'll have to develop this, which will take time, but he has all the natural ingredients, height and reach advantages over boxers in his weight division and definitely has potential to win a title in the future."

The announcement of who Ferdinand will first step into the ring with is forthcoming.

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