Sport

It’s not a TV stunt, you’re just jealous! Andrew Flintoff hits back at boxing critics ahead of Manchester fight

By Dean Wilkins

A shock return to sport as a novice boxer may be interpreted as an unnecessary TV stunt, but Andrew Flintoff insists he is wholly behind his first fight in Manchester.

England cricket hero Freddie will make his professional boxing debut when he takes on American fighter Richard Dawson at Manchester Arena on November 30, after announcing his call to swap batting for boxing.

And the legendary all-rounder has been accused of ‘taking the mickey’ out of boxing, with many critics insisting he is cheapening the sport – much the disagreement of the former Lancashire ace.

“You couldn’t go through this for a TV stunt,” Flintoff said, his training is being aired in  three parts on Sky 1.

“If I was looking for a publicity stunt I’d have picked something easier. There’s other things I could have done.

“There’s been criticism of things I’ve done in the past. I’m just getting my head down and doing the best I can.

“I appreciate that people want to protect the sport they’re involved in. I’d be the same with cricket.”

The 34-year-old was forced to retire from cricket after years of abusing his body by his powerful bowling action.

But his decision to take up boxing was one that he hope would help to promote the sport, rather than insult it.

“I’m hoping this is something where boxing is celebrated because it’s not my intention to cheapen the sport or show it up,” he added.

“We want to show the sport in the best possible light because ultimately I’m a boxing fan as well.”

Hi trainer Barry McGuigan defended the ex-England captain and insisted that any criticism is due to jealousy.

“What we’re doing is the opposite to cheapening the sport, it’s promoting it. You see the pain and anguish Freddie goes though,” said McGuigan.

“How can that be negative in promoting the sport? To say it cheapens boxing is a complete and utter load of nonsense.

“It’s a case of the green-eyed monster I’m afraid. Freddie’s worked his nuts off and we’re promoting the sport in a very positive way.

“We could have done white collar or amateur boxing, but that’s not real. This is real.”

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