Just when you thought the boxing sideshows would be gone for a while following Mayweather vs. McGregor, they’re back again, courtesy of a British bookmaker.

This time, the man looking to step through the ropes and make his boxing debut isn’t a combat sportsman at all. He’s a retired footballer of some repute.

Rio Ferdinand was one of England’s most accomplished defenders in a generation. A combination of pace, skill and composure, Ferdinand was considered one of the world’s best defenders in his prime and was twice the most expensive defender in the world.

Now he’s retired and working as an ambassador and pundit, but he’s decided to jump back into the competitive sporting world… as a boxer.

He’s being backed by betting giants and operators of the world’s largest betting exchange, Betfair, who this week held a press conference announcing Ferdinand’s new sporting venture.

He’s set to receive some legitimate assistance. Former WBC super-middleweight world champion Richie Woodhall has been enlisted to train Ferdinand in the sweet science, while former rugby player Mel Deane will oversee the former soccer star’s physical training.

"In all honesty I think he could definitely box as a professional given time. He has natural power in his right hand and is very enthusiastic to learn, which is encouraging."
Richie Woodhall

From a personal point of view, I’d take it more seriously if this was something Rio had a real hankering for, but he revealed it was actually Betfair who approached him with the challenge, rather than his own motivation.

That suggests this is more of a PR stunt than a genuine sporting adventure, which personally takes the interest level out of the story a little. But nonetheless any man who’s prepared to put in the work and step through the ropes gets my respect, and Rio isn’t someone to do something like this half-heartedly.

As you’d expect from a manufactured sporting story created by a bookmaker, there are odds available.

You can back Ferdinand to claim an English title (no small feat) at a stingy-looking 5/1, with 2/1 on offer for the former Manchester United and England man to win a regional title, such as the Southern Area or Midlands Area title.

I’d avoid both bets like the plague.


Follow Simon Head on Twitter @simonhead.


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