Andrew Flintoff v Richard Dawson: Should Freddie be in the ring?
Andrew Flintoff will make his professional boxing debut against the American Richard Dawson on Friday at the Manchester Arena.
Frank Maloney Boxing promoter
“No-one knows what it's like when you get hit by a glove unless you're the actual fella in the ring”
The former England cricketer, 34, has been training with the ex-world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan and his son Shane in preparation for his bout against Dawson, a man 11 years his junior and just under two stone heavier.
Some have suggested the fight is a "gimmick" for television but McGuigan believes Flintoff is fully prepared for the challenge.
"He's shredded in weight and you can tell by looking at his physique he's transformed," he tells BBC Sport.
Flintoff says he is fighting because he "needed something" after retiring from cricket and that he has enjoyed being a sportsman again.
So should the Ashes-winning cricketer, universally known as "Freddie", be allowed to fight a professional bout?
Is he ready?
"He's as ready as he could ever be," said McGuigan. "He's sparred over 300 rounds. He's worked for four-and-a-half months solidly and he's been doing 12 sessions a week for the last month and a half.
"Technically he's still a novice. He's got things to improve on and he's getting better.
"He's got good stance, good guard, good footwork and a good jab. He can bang the right hand in and he's got a good uppercut.
"Ultimately, he's a novice heavyweight, as is his opponent. I've seen him and I think Freddie can beat him."
Is the sport too dangerous for him?
Boxing promoter Frank Maloney has a different view.
Sportsmen who've made it into the ring
Sonny Bill Williams - the New Zealand rugby league and union player is also a heavyweight boxer. He's won all five of his pro bouts since 2009 and is the current New Zealand heavyweight champion.
Curtis Woodhouse - the former Sheffield United and Birmingham midfielder won his first 10 fights after he took up boxing in 2006. He fights at light-welterweight and is known as 'the Driffield Destroyer".
Charlie Powell - played in the NFL between 1952 and 1961 for the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders. As a pro boxer he once knocked out Nino Valdes of Cuba and in 1963 he fought Muhammad Ali and was knocked out in the third round.
He points to James Cracknell's charity bout in 2007 as evidence that former sportsmen shouldn't move into the boxing arena.
Cracknell was knocked out by former New Zealand Test cricketer Kerry Walmsley, who was almost two stone heavier.
On his debut, Flintoff's opponent Dawson knocked out his opponent after 19 seconds. Maloney argues that the sport is brutal for people like Flintoff who do not know it well.
"I think it's dangerous", he said. "No-one knows what it's like when you get hit by a glove unless you're the actual fella in the ring.
"I've boxed as an amateur. I've had a few punches, a busted nose and things like that. I didn't want to go pro because I know how hard it is.
"It's not for the meek. It's his choice and I wish him luck, but I think it's a bad decision by the British Board of Control to give a 34-year-old former sportsman a boxing licence."
Is the fight serious?
"This is my business, I'm not involved in a stunt," says McGuigan.
Curtis Woodhouse on the switch to boxing
Former footballer who took up boxing in 2006 tells BBC Radio 5 live about the challenges facing Flintoff in the ring:
"Freddie is new to the sport and you can't be chucking him in too deep. It is a dangerous sport and you have to take baby steps to start with. It can be very brutal at times.
"Freddie will have to get down and dirty. He's going to get hurt and he has to be mentally ready for that. If he does the hard work he will be physically ready but when the going gets tough sometimes you have to bite that gum shield and go through the pain barrier.
"If Freddie is fit and willing and has passed all the medical tests then who am I - and who is anybody - to tell him that he can't do it? I'm just hoping we have a happy ending tonight and boxing is shown in a good light."
"I have boxing academies, I have professional fighters, I have a kid who's sixth in the world. Anyone who says that to me insults me.
"For all the people who say we've demeaned the sport it couldn't be further from the truth - it's the absolute opposite of that.
"I would never get involved in something that wouldn't be anything but praiseworthy of boxing.
"Freddie Flintoff has trained insatiably hard, he's worked himself to the bone - look at the transformation. There's no way he could have got to that without having worked his cotton socks off.
"Bear in mind this is a four two-minute round contest, so it's down the bottom of the ladder of performances.
"He understands from the four-and-a-half months he's grafted for this just the sort of effort it takes to make it in boxing.
"Rather than being disrespectful he's been hugely respectful so I don't listen to these idiots who say this sport has been demeaned. This is a great chance for him. "
Should he be fighting?
Richard Dawson's boxing stats
- Residence: Oklahoma, USA
- DOB: 25th Jan 1989
- Division: Heavyweight
- Fights: 2
- Won: 2 (1 Knockout)
Maloney doesn't think so. "I want to remember Flintoff as a man who was a great cricketer for England," he says.
"At 34 years old you can't make a career out of boxing. There are lots of young fighters who have worked their butt off to get to a certain level. They are trying hard and they can't even get a television slot.
"You get Freddie Flintoff claiming he wants to be a professional boxer and they make a documentary about him.
"We'll get every other sportsman who's failed in their own sport or called it a day coming into boxing. The British Boxing Board of Control shouldn't have granted him a licence."
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