Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand retired from professional football two years agoLaurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Decorated former Manchester United and England footballer Rio Ferdinand has confirmed reports that he is set to try his hand at professional boxing at the age of 38.

Set to train with former WBC super-middleweight champion Richie Woodhall, one-time rugby union centre Mel Deane and a selection of unnamed fighters past and present, former centre-back Ferdinand, who retired from football after 18 years in May 2015 following his release by Queens Park Rangers, will partner with online sports betting provider Betfair as part of the 'Defender to Contender' project.

His aim will be to gain a license from the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) before eventually competing for a title.

"When Betfair approached me about the Defender to Contender challenge, the chance to prove myself in a new sport was a real draw," Ferdinand said in a statement released before he holds an official press conference at York Hall in Bethnal Green on Tuesday afternoon (19 September).

"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."

Ferdinand, who has been seen training on social media over recent months while jokingly challenging the likes of Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, Tony Bellew and David Haye, is set to follow in the footsteps of ex-British light-welterweight champion Curtis Woodhouse and the recently retired Leon McKenzie, two other former footballers who successfully transitioned into professional boxing.

England cricket legend Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff also talso launched a boxing career after retiring as part of a TV documentary in 2012 winning his debut four-round fight against American Richard Dawson at the Manchester Arena. Flintoff has not stepped back into the ring since and critics at the time dismissed the whole idea as a mere TV stunt.

"In all honesty, 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."

Since calling time on an illustrious career in which he made 665 appearances for five different clubs, won a plethora of silverware including six Premier League titles and earned 81 caps for his country as well as reigning for several years as the world's most expensive defender, Ferdinand has worked mostly as a television pundit.

Earlier this year he featured in a moving and searingly honest documentary entitled 'Being Mum And Dad' in which he opened up about the loss of wife Rebecca, who died from breast cancer in May 2015.