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Rio comes out swinging

Rio Ferdinand is about to go from defender to boxing contender. (Shutterstock)
DUBAI: Rio Ferdinand insists he is determined to silence the doubters as he presses ahead with his plans to become a professional boxer.
The former West Ham and Manchester United defender recently announced his intention to step into the ring, though the news was met with skepticism by many in the boxing fraternity.
Tony Bellew was among those to criticize Ferdinand, claiming he was “making a mockery out of boxing” and labeling it an “attention-seeking move of the highest order”.
However, Ferdinand is ignoring the naysayers and maintains that he is deadly serious about his foray into pugilism.
“I’m not bothered about that (criticism), just like I wasn’t when I played football,” Ferdinand told Arab News. “I expected negative comments from people.
“I understand it’s another sport and those people who do it might have an opinion about me but if they see what I’m about, my professionalism and how I’m treating it — I think they’d have a different view.”
Ex-England cricketer Andrew Flintoff provoked a similar reaction before winning his first professional bout in 2012 and Ferdinand intends to prove his boxing ambitions are not just a publicity stunt.
“Someone challenged me, asked me if I wanted to become a professional boxer and I didn’t even think twice,” Ferdinand said.
“I know that physically and mentally it will test me and push my limits. But I like challenges and I miss the competition so here we are. It’s not a joke.”
Flintoff’s infamous fight took place in front of a sparse crowd of 6,000 fans at the Manchester Arena but Ferdinand insists he is not yet thinking about a location for his boxing debut.
Asked whether he’d like to fight at Wembley one day, the Peckham-born star said: “I’d prefer to fight at my house to be honest! I know the surroundings, it’s comfortable. Honestly, though, I’m not thinking that far ahead — about venues, about fights. I’ve got so many hurdles to get over before then. I’ve got to do an intensive training camp, I’ve got to try to get my British Boxing Board of Control license. I’m not thinking beyond those obstacles yet.”
Ferdinand revealed that despite facing some negative reaction, he has actually had plenty of support from friends in the world of boxing, with a number of fighters keen to help him hone his technique.
“I’ve had a few offers from professionals to help me with sparring — it’s obvious that people would be interested because it’s exposure, it’s something people are talking about. There’s loads of professionals who I know, people like Anthony Joshua, Anthony Yarde — but I’ve got a coach who I trust and I’m just focused on listening to him right now. I don’t want lots of different voices because I’m not messing around. Boxing is a serious sport and I’m serious about it.”
Rio Ferdinand was speaking as an ambassador for the Dubai Fitness Challenge.