Rio Ferdinand has confirmed he is launching a new career as a professional boxer. The sports star, who retired from football in 2015, is moving into the boxing ring as part of Betfair's 'Defender to Contender' challenge. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday morning, Rio told reporters: "When Betfair approached me about the Defender to Contender challenge, the chance to prove myself in a new sport was a real draw."
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The 38-year-old, who previously played for Manchester United, West Ham United and Queens Park Rangers, currently works as a television pundit for BT Sport and the BBC. He added: "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."
There's no denying Rio is a huge fan of boxing. The father-of-three posed for a picture with boxer Anthony Joshua after his win against Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium in April. He has also posted various training videos on social media accounts in recent months jokingly challenging professional boxers such as Tyson Fury and David Haye to a fight. Rio isn't the first sportsman to make the move into boxing - former England cricketer Andrew Flintoff's campaign to become a boxer was documented in a Sky 1 documentary series in 2012.
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It was also announced that Rio will be coached by Team GB coach and former WBC super-middleweight champion Richie Woodhall. He 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." He added: "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."