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Ferdinand set for a tough challenge in the boxing ring

Rio Ferdinand
Michael Jordan
LONDON: Rio Ferdinand has officially traded in his football boots for a pair of boxing gloves and has been told to expect a tough challenge as he tries to make a name for himself as a boxer rather than a footballer.
Now aged 38, it has been over two years since the former Manchester United and England star trained professionally. So training with former WBC super-middleweight champion and Olympic bronze-medalist turned GB trainer Richie Woodall could come as a shock.
Arab News spoke to Sean Laverick, a man who has overseen Anthony Joshua sparring sessions, who claimed Ferdinand is in for a shock.
“I think he will struggle, he hasn't, as far as I'm aware, he hasn't been preparing that long from it,” the boxing coach said.
“A person that has had a good amateur background will definitely come in over the top of Rio.
“It's very easy to hit a punch bag and do sparring and think I'm ok but once you actually step in that box, you can prepare as much as you can but that's where the difference is.”
Ferdinand, it seems, is in no doubt as to the size of the task he is taking on.
“I have always had a passion for it and this challenge is the perfect opportunity to show people what’s possible,” Ferdinand said.
“It’s a challenge I’m not taking lightly — clearly not everyone can become a professional boxer — but with the team of experts (I’ve got behind me) are putting together and the drive I have to succeed, anything is possible.”
The tale of a sports star deciding to try his or her luck in another discipline is far from rare. In fact such are the big egos that many sporting heroes carry around with them, in addition to their talent, it is, in some ways, surprising that there have not been more dual-sporting stars.
Here Arab News looks at five other athletes who have risked their big reputations in a bid to prove they are super at more than one sport.
Think of “MJ” and you doubtless think of basketball. The greatest ever player, and perfectionist, somewhat blotted his copybook, however, when he decided dominating the court for the Chicago Bulls was not enough. Aged 31 ‘His Airness’ quit basketball to try his luck in baseball. While success came easy on the basketball court it was harder to find on the baseball diamond. Playing for the Birmingham Barons, a minor league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, Jordan struggled. His average batting performances were combined with leading the Southern League with 11 errors in the outfield. It was no surprise when, after just a year, Jordan announced that he was leaving baseball behind in a two-word press release: “I’m back!”
Deion “Prime Time” Sanders was known as having a big ego, and clearly decided to live his sporting life by the mantra “why be good at one sport when you can be good at two.” The super talent played American football for a host of top teams, the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins, among them, and in Major League Baseball for the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds. As if being able to play in the top divisions of the US’s main pastimes was not enough, Sanders was also good enough to be one of the best players in both sports. He won the Super Bowl with the 49ers and Cowboys, and played in a World Series with the Atlanta Braves. He also he hit a major league home run and scored a touchdown in the NFL in the same week, the only player ever to do so.
Andrew Flintoff was one of the best cricket all-rounders of his generation, and even was considered to be the greatest English all-rounder since Sir Ian Botham. Following retirement in 2010, the larger-than-life character refused to shy away from the limelight, moving from the cricket pavilion to the boxing ring. Flintoff did not have such a bad experience, as he jabbed his way to a one-from-one winning record in his one-off professional boxing fight in 2012. After the harsh criticism from fans and critics alike Flintoff quit while he was ahead explaining: “I’m not pretending to be something I'm not.”
To put yourself in the spotlight in two sports you need to have confidence, and it is fair to say the Irish MMA star did not lack in that regard. As quick with one-line insults as he is with bone-crunching kicks McGregor last month took on possibly the greatest boxer of all time, Floyd Mayweather. The jury is still split over whether he made a good fist of it. Defeated via technical knockout in the 10th round, there are some who were pleasantly surprised by McGregor’s performance, while others thought the match-up was a farce. We doubt he minded though, for his efforts he got a hefty pay check of at least $30 million.
There are those who are good at two sports and then there is Sonny Bill Williams, who decided to show-off in three. By the time he was 19 the classy Kiwi was already playing rugby league, becoming the youngest player to ever win an NRL title and and play for New Zealand. His switch to rugby union in 2008 added yet more titles and trophies to his ever-growing cabinet, winning the World Cup with the All Blacks in 2011 and 2015. As if he had not had enough world-class sporting action Williams tested his masterclass in the boxing ring, winning all six professional bouts. Not only that but he took up rugby sevens so he could take part in the Rio Olympics. Not a bad sporting CV…