Two years after his retirement from football, Rio Ferdinand is set to launch a career in professional boxing.
The news was announced by Betfair, who are backing the former Manchester United and England defender.
“I’m doing this because it’s a challenge,” said the 38-year-old.
“I’ve won titles and now I’m aiming for a belt.”
Ferdinand has posted several videos over the last few months across social media showing him boxing and training with personal trainer Mel Deane.
Betfair approached the six-time Premier League champion about making the switch and will help him qualify for his British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) licence before he begins training and competing.
“When Betfair approached me about the challenge, the chance to prove myself in a new sport was a real draw,” Ferdinand added.
The Champions League winner will be coached by Team GB coach and former WBC super-middleweight champion Richie Woodhall.
“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,” Woodhall said.
“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.”
The former centre-back started his career with West Ham and also played for Leeds and QPR, making more than 500 career club appearances. He was capped 81 times for England.
Boxing promoter Barry Hearn wasn’t too sure about Rio’s transition.
“It’s laughable. I like Rio, don’t get me wrong, but this is an advert for a reality TV show,” he said.
“If Tony Bellew, David Haye or Anthony Joshua hit Rio Ferdinand it would probably be prosecutable by the police for using a deadly weapon. He could get himself badly hurt.
“It’s OK if it’s just a bit of fun, making a TV show and making some money. I wish him luck, I hope he enjoys it but be very careful because it’s dangerous.
“He could get badly hurt and no promoter is going to sanction that. He’s being totally naive and underestimating boxing.”
Other footballers who made the change to boxing include former Birmingham City midfielder Curtis Woodhouse and former Crystal Palace forward Leon McKenzie. Woodhouse became British super-lightweight champion.