Betfair put Rio in the RingThursday, Sep 28, 2017 14:47
The Pendleton Precedent
Of course, this is not the first sporting crossover that Betfair has managed. Two years ago, Betfair sponsored cycling sensation Victoria Pendleton in her switch to National Hunt horse racing. The Olympic cyclist made the switch to horse racing and spent 12 months in arduous training before competing at the equine Olympics, the Cheltenham Festival.
Pendleton defied the majority of her critics, managing to complete a fifth-placed finish on Pacha Du Polder in the Foxhunter Chase. Even staying in the saddle for the duration of the race was a feat in itself for such an inexperienced rider, and Betfair will be hoping Rio Ferdinand completes his switch with similar success.
From Defender to Contender
The switch has been smartly named as 'Defender to Contender', and it will start with Rio Ferdinand applying for a British Boxing Board of Control licence. Once this has been received, the aim would be for Ferdinand to compete in a number of fights within the next 12 months.
Rio Ferdinand Statement
When asked about the highly surprising switch, former England and Manchester United lynchpin Ferdinand said: "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."
Receiving some Strong Support
For such a switch to have a hope of working Ferdinand will need the right men in his corner and he will be strongly aided by Richie Woodhall, a former WBC super-middleweight champion and now a leading coach.
Woodhall said: "In all honesty, I think Rio can definitely box as a professional given time. 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."
Other Sports Stars who made the Boxing Ring Move
Rio Ferdinand is not the first sporting star to make the switch to boxing. England cricket star Andrew Flintoff entered the ring in November 2012 under the training of Barry and Shane McGuigan. Flintoff’s bout was the main event and the Lancashire legend fought to a points win. Defeating a previously undefeated boxer, Flintoff’s venture was critically panned and widely seen as an insult to the sport. Betfair will be hoping there is no such reaction this time around.
New Zealand All Black and rugby sensation Sonny Bill Williams also made the switch to boxing. Williams fought whilst still continuing his rugby career, and is perhaps more physically suited to boxing than most. Indeed, Williams forged a successful career in the sport picking up the New Zealand and WBA international heavyweight titles.