It was news that certainly shocked the newspapers. Rio Ferdinand is to turn his hand towards professional boxing. If you follow his social media then you will know boxing is a strict part of his exercise plan already but no one could have suspected it would become his next career path.
Rio Ferdinand has been retired for two years now and in that time, he has built up a career in TV punditry and also owns his very own clothing line. Needless to say after a career in football and being one of the most expensive defenders in history he is unlikely doing this for the money.
The move is being backed heavily by Betfair though as they take a new marketing strategy up a level. Needless to say, this backing and Rio’s celebrity’s background has left many peoples eyebrows raised.
Rio Ferdinand was an elite sportsman for over 20 years and so it is understandable that he feels that is where his strengths lie. Many ex-footballers struggles with post-career life and may take a dark road, case in point being Paul Gascoigne. Ferdinand could be looking for one more shot at glory and no sport offers that more than boxing.
Of course, boxing offers lots of other things too including danger. If Ferdinand is not careful something that becomes embarrassing in boxing can also become dangerous. The likes of Tony Bellew landing a punch on him might end any careers in the future of any kind. It really can be that quick.
Nevertheless, he is taking it seriously and having trained for a while already he has appointed former boxer Richie Woodhall as his coach. The aim might be to have one big fight a bit like when Andrew Flintoff had a pro bout in 2012. It could be a case of Betfair and Rio giving each other what they desire. Betfair gets the exposure and Rio will get another chance to live the sportsman life.
This is not an unprecedented move. Leon McKenzie who played as a striker for the likes of Crystal Palace and Norwich City and came from a family of boxes took it on late in his career at a similar age to Ferdinand. Curtis Woodhouse was a former Birmingham City player who not only turned to boxing but also went on to become a national champion.
Rio has also gone through a terrible time in his personal life after his wife died of cancer last year. In some promotional material, he has said how boxing helps him channel his anger at that event. It is always nice to see play an important role in someone’s life but I can’t help feel that it should be channelled elsewhere than a boxing ring.
Betfair will be the only one to benefit no matter what happens. The company has done this before when they sponsored Victoria Pendleton’s transition to being a jockey. She finished fifth in a race at Cheltenham festival in her first outing. Betfair, however, got exposure for the connection and this venture will do the same.
Rio Ferdinand is not the first sportsman to make this move but he is perhaps the first who really don’t have to. If he decides to go through it he will need a license and at his current weight, he would be a cruiserweight. Everyone will be watching this progress with baited breath but I fear it will be nothing other than a marketing tool and stain on Rio’s career. We probably will still bet on it though and hope Rio proves us wrong!