After an incredibly successful career at Old Trafford, former Manchester United and England defender, Rio Ferdinand is currently training to become a professional boxer with a view to challenging for a belt within a few years. Ferdinand is now 38 years old and won six Premier League titles and a Champions League winners medal during his time at Old Trafford. His challenge is being backed by betting company 'Betfair' under the name "Defender to Contender". It was Betfair who successfully backed Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton's transition from cyclist to jockey only a couple of years ago.

Rio's credentials

At 38 it may be felt that the ex-pro footballer is too long in the tooth to embark on such a challenging new career, but since retiring two years ago he has kept himself in top physical condition and regularly trains with personal trainer Mel Deane. Ferdinand has actually posted clips of himself on social media offering challenges to current heavyweight fighters.

At the moment, however, he needs to be awarded a British Boxing Board of Control(BBBoC) license to allow him to fight.

Without that, his career may not even get off the ground. The aim, Ferdinand says, is to progress slowly through fights of four rounds, to six, eight and eventually twelve before aiming to challenge for a professional boxing belt. He has full support from the team at Betfair and from his personal trainer Mel Deane and former super middleweight champ Richie Woodhall.

His progress will be documented in a documentary titled "Defender to Contender".

More reactions

With an announcement like this from one of the great names in sport, it was not surprising that there would be some comments from ex-teammates keen to give their views.

Ex-teammate at Manchester United, Gary Neville, asked whether former defensive partner Nemanja Vidic would be stepping in to take the punches on his behalf.

Boxing promoter, Barry Hearn, believes Ferdinand only has a 50/50 chance of even being awarded a licence given his lack of experience and denounces the former footballer's efforts as a publicity stunt for a reality TV show. The boxing supremo said in an interview with 5Live that Ferdinand "would be destroyed before he even got off his stool."

Andrew Flintoff famously had one professional fight several years ago and actually won, but whether Ferdinand is capable of making the switch to a notoriously challenging sport remains to be seen.