Former England cricketer Andrew Flintoff will step into the ring for the first time tonight as he makes hi heavyweight boxing debut at the Manchester Arena. The 34 year old, who was the star of England’s 2005 Ashes winning side, retired from the sport two years ago and switched to boxing. He admitted that ahead of his bout with American Richard Dawson he was feeling nervous about his first fight.
"I don't know if scary is the right word. I think you do face your fears a little bit. It does take some guts to walk through the ropes and get in the ring for the first time and have a sparring session and do sparring sessions regular.
Trained by former world champion Barry McGuigan for the past five months, the Lancashire hero lost over 20 kg as he got in shape for the fight.
"I have come a long way in a short space of time. I realise that the level that I am, at I'm not fighting for the world heavyweight title. I am a novice professional heavyweight. I am going into my first fight, I am going into the unknown a little bit.
Flintoff has faced criticism from some in the boxing world that he is devaluing the sport, with promoter Frank Maloney saying that the bout of four two-minute rounds will “shame the fight game”. The all-rounder said that he was boxing for his love of the sport, and that training for this bout had been his toughest challenge.
"What's harder, boxing or cricket? I think the past four and half months have possibly been the hardest I have ever had. With the cricket I did it since I was six, it was a natural thing to do. When you do something as a kid you know where you are with it, you have got experiences to draw back on. With the boxing, at 34 going into it, it has been tough, the diet and the discipline and the training, getting punched. I think it has been harder. In the grand scheme of sport I suppose when you have the chance to represent your country, to play in the Ashes and represent your country at the highest level, publicly that is a far bigger thing. As personal achievements go and testing yourself, this has got to be harder."
Tonight could prove to be Flintoff’s toughest test. His opponent won his first two fights, knocking out the first challenger in 19 seconds. From his many hours spent at the crease, the cricket legend will be hoping to last a lot longer.
Written and presented by Alfred Joyner