Rio Ferdinand has announced his intention to become a professional boxer.
The former Manchester United captain, 38, has set the goal of competing for a regional or English belt – and has former WBC super-middleweight champion Richie Woodhall in his corner.
It's happening... Can’t wait to get started with the team @betfair have put together, @richiewoodhall and @meldeane 🥊 #DefenderToContender pic.twitter.com/s6AmLRo7DN— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) September 19, 2017
“It’s a challenge. I’m doing this because it’s a challenge. Simple as that,” Ferdinand said. “I’ve won titles and now I’m aiming for a belt.”
The first step is to train and be assessed by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBOC) – who will make a decision on whether Ferdinand should be given a licence.
The former defender has committed to training three times a week with Woodhall, and the rest of the time with former rugby union player Mel Deane, and has given a glimpse of his movement on Instagram.
Ferdinand obviously enjoys boxing, with his Twitter profile showing him posing with Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight belts.
This video he posted on the site a few months ago gave fans a taste of his pad work.
But a major personality taking such a risk, in such a public way, comes with its pitfalls.
And one of those are former teammates on social media.
Hey @rioferdy5 when you're boxing does Vidic come in and take the punches whilst you cover round the back with me? 😉— Gary Neville (@GNev2) September 19, 2017
Gary Neville wasn’t the only one to bring up Nemanja Vidic, who formed a formidable partnership with Ferdinand at United.
Rio Ferdinand wants to go into boxing? Should be going into wrestling with Vidic as a tag team partner.— Fawwaz (@FawwazChowdhury) September 18, 2017
I can get on board with Rio Ferdinand becoming a professional boxer.
But only if his first opponent is Roy Keane or Nemanja Vidic.— Tom Craze (@TomCraze) September 18, 2017
Elsewhere, some people had theories as to why Ferdinand was now deciding to take up boxing.
Rio Ferdinand is thinking of taking up boxing. What provokes a man who sits in a studio with Owen and Savage into wanting to punch someone?— Rob Summerfield (@RobSummerfield1) September 18, 2017
For the record, Ferdinand “is a fitness fanatic who is always looking to challenge himself, and Defender To Contender offers him the opportunity to take on a new challenge in his life,” according to Betfair.
The betting company created the challenge for United’s former number five, saying they want to give fans an “exciting sporting narrative to get behind”.
There’s not complete support for Ferdinand though, with some people wondering if it’s the right decision.
Rio Ferdinand to announce he will attempt to become a professional boxer. 2017 outdoing itself once again 😐 🤷♀️— James Gray 🥊🏉🏎 (@jamestingray) September 18, 2017
I genuinely like @rioferdy5 but we don't need another Frieddie Flintoff moment mugging off the sport. Take up golf geezer: 😏✌🏻— James Helder iFL TV (@JamesHelder_) September 19, 2017
But someone who’s been there and done it, Curtis Woodhouse, is supportive of Ferdinand.
Woodhouse played for the likes of Sheffield United and Birmingham before making the switch to boxing at 26, winning his first 10 professional fights.
The 37-year-old went on to twice win the English light-welterweight title.
If nothing else though, Ferdinand’s foray into boxing has at least given people the opportunity to make this joke.
Rio Ferdinand isn't the first person to do a sport he's not used to...
For instance Oxlade-Chamberlain has been having a go at football.— ✌️🤙 (@CySaunders24) September 18, 2017
Don't understand the problem with Rio Ferdinand trying another sport.
It's Jordan Henderson I feel for, he's been trying football for years— Tom McDermott (@MrTomMcDermott) September 19, 2017