20 Sep 2017

Ferdinand bids to go from defender to contender

10:17 am on 20 September 2017

The former England football captain Rio Ferdinand has taken to boxing in pursuit of a new focus to cope with the grieving process after losing his wife and mother.

Ferdinand intends fighting as a professional cruiserweight and will be trained by retired world champion Richie Woodhall.

Ferdinand has made little secret of the challenges he has faced since retiring from football. His wife Rebecca died of breast cancer shortly before his retirement began, and he also lost his mother to cancer in July.

Aged 38, he refuses to set targets of winning a title but is adamant it's the ideal way for him to "channel the aggression and emotion that arose".

QPR Rio Ferdinand (right) battles with West Ham's Winston Read

QPR Rio Ferdinand (right) battles with West Ham's Winston Read Photo: Photosport

"Me having something to channel aggression and emotions that arise from the events of the past couple of years, this is a great platform," said Ferdinand, who also cares for his two sons and a daughter.

"With grief and situations you encounter in life, you need to have a focus. My first focus was getting stuck into work and this is an extension of that.

"My team had to look at my schedule. I am not coming in lightly: my diary revolving around my kids will be my priority.

"My kids' first thing was 'Do not lose, Dad'. My two boys do a bit of contact stuff themselves: Thai boxing and boxing along with football and rugby. They are really excited.

"This is another opportunity to show them in life you need to be focused and disciplined. I am going to learn from this but I am hoping they will too."

Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand Photo: Supplied

"You think about looking foolish. I have kids watching. It is pressure but I miss pressure. I don't miss playing football; I miss the adrenaline and the competing, and the mental and physical warfare."

He remains confident the back injuries he suffered in his playing days are no longer a concern and also distanced himself from Conor McGregor, who used his profile to secure a lucrative fight with Floyd Mayweather on his professional debut.

"Everyone says it is a big step, 'You're mad, crazy'. My friends and family said if you want to do it, why not?

"McGregor was fighting the greatest defensive fighter on the planet. It was A-class. It is a big difference."