Freddie Flintoff
Freddie Flintoff

This evening former Test cricketer Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff enters the harsh world of professional boxing.

The 34 year old all-rounder from Preston, who has no amateur experience and was forced to retire from cricket due to perpetual knee injuries, squares off with Oklahoma’s Richard Dawson in a heavyweight contest over four-two minute rounds at Manchester Arena.

Watch the whole bill live and exclusive on BoxNation, the Channel of Champions, Sky Ch.437/Virgin Ch.546) plus the British and Commonwealth Heavyweight Championship between David Price and Matt Skelton, with coverage starting at 6.45pm.

Boxing writer Glynn Evans has been canvassing major players within the industry to gauge their views on Flintoff’s flirtation with ‘The Hardest Sport’.

Colin McMillan (former world champion): ‘Freddie’s’ getting the sport a lot of publicity. We’ll not really know if it’s good or bad until after the fight. It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out.

From the clips I’ve seen, he appears very raw and I’m sceptical as to whether the Board would have granted a licence to a 34 year old Joe Bloggs off the street with similar credentials. I know the Board deferred his application the first time ‘Freddie’ applied and they’re in an awkward position. There’s a lot riding on it.

Boxing’s not a game. There are certain protections in place in sparring. In the ring, for real, is a different ball game. Still, I’m sure he’ll be matched very, very carefully.

Don Charles (trainer): It depends how you look at it. ‘Freddie’s’ already a household name so it gets everybody talking about boxing. He got to the top in cricket.

But would the English Cricket Board allow me to play top class cricket tomorrow, just because I wanted to? Of course not.

I do think it devalues our sport a little. Boxing is an art which it takes years to master. I can’t challenge the Board, it’s their decision. But I’d like to think that a professional boxer’s licence was worth more than that. There’s lots of White Collar and unlicensed fighters, some very good, far better than ‘Freddie’. Are the Board going to give all them a licence?

Enzo Maccarinelli (Former world champion): I think it’s good for the game because it’s generating a lot of publicity for boxing. That said, if ‘Freddie’ isn’t ready and fails miserably, it could backfire.

Ideally, he should have experimented with a couple of amateur fights before getting licensed. It’s a huge step up from having nothing to fighting as a professional. It’s nowhere near as easy as people think.

Still, he’s had to go through all the same tests and trials as every other aspiring pro so I wish him well.

Jamie Moore (pundit): My view is that if ‘Freddie’ wants to box, he’s quite within his right to do so. Plenty of sportsmen from other sports, like rugby, have come in. Why should it be any different for a cricketer?

It’s a free world. People are entitled to try whatever they choose, provided they follow the rules and guidelines. Boxing is ‘Freddie’s’ choice.

The Board will have seen him spar and have deemed him good enough. Let’s be honest, there’s plenty of journeymen who probably shouldn’t be granted a licence but they’re what keeps the sport going. Hopefully, ‘Freddie’ will be matched well and won’t get hurt.

The bad side is there are a lot of championship level fighters who are craving a little bit of publicity to help get themselves ahead, yet can’t get any.

Joe Gallagher (trainer): ‘Freddie’ should be free to do what he wants to do. The McGuigans are knowledgeable boxing people and the Board has rules and regulations, which ‘Freddie’s’ has abided by, so that’s it.

Curtis Woodhouse got loads of stick when he joined the pros but he’s gone on to earn the respect of everybody in the game.

My one concern is whether it’s just a publicity stunt. The fact he’s doing a Sky documentary says a lot. What does he want from boxing, starting out at 34? Why not have a few amateur bouts? He’s only boxing four-two minute rounds when the amateurs do three-threes.

Remember all the stick Amir Khan and Audley Harrison got when they came straight out of the amateurs and effectively topped the bill? You’ve got to feel for Ronnie Heffron and Denton Vassell who contest the Commonwealth title in what should be a great fight down the card yet won’t get half the publicity.

What we don’t need is for Flintoff to get knocked out. That would be a real black eye for the sport.

Johnny Greaves (journeyman): A lot of cyber fans have pooh-poohed this on the websites but, to me, it looks like ‘Freddie’ has put the work in at the gym, passed his scans and trial bout so why not? Boxing is open for anyone to put themselves into it and ‘Freddie’s’ bringing publicity into the game.

He’s got himself into shape and can obviously sell a ticket. He deserves the opportunity to earn money for himself and other fighters will also benefit off the back of him headlining these big shows. Let’s be honest, 95% of those who turn up will have paid to see Flintoff and not Denton Vassell and Ronnie Heffron which is an excellent title fight on the same bill.

There does, however, need to be some uniformity with regard to licensing. I know a few of a similar age, who can handle themselves, but who’ve been knocked back.

Tommy Gilmour (manager): It’s certainly not a thing I’d like to see encouraged. I fear that ‘Freddie’ has been granted a professional boxer’s licence simply on the back of his fame.

There’s little difference in what he hopes to achieve and what those on the White Collar circuit get involved for. The Board condemn White Collar boxing. Is this any better?

Why not have two or three amateur contests first? This is a bit of a kick in the teeth for all those involved, who take our sport seriously. Flintoff might be looking a million dollars in the gym but they said Ricky Hatton was and look how he fared last weekend. When big, heavy guys are involved, who knows what could happen?

Ryan Rhodes (ex light-middle): I can see why people are against it. My Question is: ‘What does Flintoff want to achieve, starting at 34?! I’ve heard he’s not been looking that good on the Sky documentary.

But he’s a professional sportsman so who are we to say he shouldn’t be fighting? It’s creating a lot of interest and that has to be good. Barry McGuigan wouldn’t be putting his name to it if he thought it’d be a farce, if he didn’t think ‘Freddie’ had something about him.

Thing is, if you’ve got it in your head, you’ve got to do it until you get it out of your system. When boxing gets ya, it gets ya.

Steve Wood (promoter): Everyone has the right to do whatever they please and clearly ‘Freddie’ has proved his competence by passing the tests. It’s not the Board’s fault.

On the downside, I sense it’ll be a one off and that’s not ideal. Others spend a life time acquiring the amateur breeding so they can make a living from the game and this demeans that a bit.

Anthony Farnell (trainer): All the best to him. He’s done all the training and, I’m told, over 200 rounds of sparring.

I know him quite well and he’s a top guy. We used to go out when he was a 19stone cricketer. I’ve just come from the press conference and he actually looks really good. It was heaving with TV crews so the sports getting loads of publicity.

It’s only over four-twos and, in Barry McGuigan, he’s a good man looking after him who won’t put him a bad way.

He’ll find it’s a tough game, mind. You play cricket but you don’t play boxing. Hopefully, he’ll be alright.

Paul Smith (Former British Champion): It might be a good thing for boxing, publicity wise, but it’s a bad thing for boxers. I don’t agree with Flintoff coming into our sport and topping the bill over four-twos at The Manchester Arena. I’d not go standing at the crease at Lord’s with an 8 inch wide bat!

Nothing against ‘Freddie’ but it’s a slap in the face for all the boxers who’ve really paid their dues. It seems like he thinks he’s got the balls and the ability to do it, just like everyone in the pub does. Then they get in the ring and can’t do it. Us professionals make it look easy. If he fights anyone with a pulse, he’ll be in for a shock.

Thankfully, in Britain we’ve got very competent referees who should keep him safe.

Matt Macklin (middleweight): I don’t have a massively strong opinion. If ‘Freddie’ wants to box, good luck to him. It allows him to tick the box in his ‘To Do’ list and hopefully move on. I’m not sure he’ll make much of a career out of it. If he’s useless, he’ll be found out pretty quickly.

Sure, he’s getting boxing publicity but he’s hogging it all for ‘Freddie’ Flintoff at the expense of more deserving cases. There’s promoters out there grafting their balls off hoping for just a short column for British and European title fights. I certainly think it’s a bit unfair for the true fighters who’ll be on his ‘undercard’.

It’s just a novelty thing. Who’ll be interested in watching his second fight...if he has one?!

Martin Murray (middleweight): He’s put the training in, got himself fit, lost the weight so, provided he’s matched correctly, why not give it a go? Good on him. Good luck, I say.

He won’t get very far but he’s earned the right to all the publicity through all his fabulous achievements on the cricket field.

Those saying it’s a mockery have to appreciate that he’s passed all his medicals, scans and trials so he shouldn’t be denied. I’m surprised so many people seem to want to see him get beat up.

Mark Tibbs (trainer): I don’t really have a problem with it if he’s passed the tests but I don’t think it’s good for boxing. I feel a bit sorry for all the youngsters who come through the amateur ranks, proper fighters, yet they can’t get any publicity.

I’ve not been around him enough to make an accurate judgement as to how he’ll get on and anything can happen in boxing. Still, there’s all different levels of competition and, in the McGuigans, he’s got a good team wrapped around him.

‘Freddie’ seems a nice bloke but he’s not a young man. Boxing’s a tough old game and, when you’ve not being doing it from a young age, it’s even tougher!

Ashley Theophane (light-welter): For me, it’s just a publicity stunt, a gimmick. ‘Freddie’ Flintoff doesn’t want a career as a professional boxer. It’s a hard sport to get into late and he won’t get to any level. I give him two fights max. I’ve seen him train on the Sky documentary and he’s not looking too good but he’s making money off those TV shows.

Still, people said the same when Curtis Woodhouse came into boxing from football but he saw it through and won the English title. As long as ‘Freddie’ doesn’t get hurt, I suppose the publicity he’s generating is good for the game. Boxing’s in danger of becoming a minority sport but at least this brings it to the forefront again.