Former cricketer Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff praised the ‘amazing’ people of Manchester as he overcame his self-professed personal battles to win his first ever professional boxing match.
The ex-Lancashire and England all-rounder defeated American Richard Dawson by one point and described his debut fight as being like an ‘out of body experience’.
Flintoff compared representing England at cricket to his tough training programme and admitted he fought hard to win some mental battles in the process.
“When you have the chance to represent what I think is the best county in the world and you’ve had the opportunity to play for England in an Ashes series and be successful – I think that is massive,” he said.
“But with this it’s a personal achievement and a personal battle and it’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me.
“The battles I’ve had to play with my mind, mentally, breaking down barriers every day trying to improve, is on a personal level as good as anything.
“It was amazing, the people of Manchester, friends and family, it was like an out of body experience – it was unbelievable.”
A host of former teammates including Darren Gough, Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison joined celebrities John Bishop and Jack Whitehall ringside before the fight.
And when Flintoff bounded into the ring to the sound of Oasis, wearing his prized number eleven Lancashire shirt, Manchester Arena erupted into chants of ‘Freddie, Freddie’.
The debutant pushed the pace early-on, but was caught by a Dawson right-hand in the second round and only regained composure after an eight count from the referee.
“I got caught and went down,” he said. “It was a half decent shot.”
“But then I stood up and the ref said ‘what’s your name?’ so I said Freddie ain’t it? And that made me even more determined, I didn’t want it to finish then.”
Flintoff – buoyed by the home crowd – had the American on the ropes in the third and was by far the busier fighter in the final round.
As the bell went the novice said he had no idea if he had won the fight, claiming he was not even sure how the scoring system worked.
But Flintoff was awarded a 39-38 win and praised his training team of Barry and Shane McGuigan for the life lessons learned over the last four and a half months.
“I think I got the full experience, I got the canvas, I got the black eye, I got the win,” he said.
“Shane said to me you can apply the dedication and discipline to everything in your life afterwards and that is what I thoroughly intend to do.
“I can close my eyes tonight safe in the knowledge that I have overcome a few things with help from these guys and I gave it everything I’ve got.”
Flintoff said he would take some time to enjoy the Christmas period and think about his future, but admitted he had thoroughly enjoyed the occasion surrounding his bout.
“The sense of occasion, the sense of what was going on,” he said. “The music was on, we were chatting and I heard the Oasis track we’d picked.
“I had my Lancashire shirt on again and walking out in front of the crowd I thought you know what, I like this.”