Exclusive: Trainer Richie Woodhall Says Rio Ferdinand Is A Natural Talent – “He’s Picked Up A Fair Bit From Watching Boxing”

Richie Woodhall has given himself 12 weeks to turn ex-football star Rio Ferdinand into a prizefighter.

Ferdinand this week announced his intention to turn pro – and he will be trained by Richie Woodhall.

Woodhall won bronze in 1988 Seoul Olympics and the WBC super-middleweight title in his own ring career and he now helps coach the Great Britain amateur squad at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield and works as a TV pundit.

He says the 38 year old will campaign at cruiserweight – and admits the ex-Manchester United and England star had to convince him to train him.

“When I was first asked to train a professional footballer I said: ‘No,’” said Woodhall. “I was wasn’t interested. It sounded like a gimmick, but (sponsors) Betfair were very persistent and when they told me it was Rio, I was interested.

“I always admired him as a footballer and he has that mental toughness.

“I agreed to meet him and he convinced me to train him.

“He was telling me that he grew up in Peckham and it was hard.

“I took him on the pads and he wasn’t bad. He’s picked up a fair bit from watching boxing – and he has some natural talent.

“He is the fittest 38 year old I’ve ever met and he has some power.

“He convinced me he’s serious and that isn’t just a one off. (Cricketer) Freddie Flintoff had just the one fight and I wasn’t interested in something like that.

“Rio wants to have a go, he wants to prove to himself he can do it. Rio says he sits on the couch watching the boxing saying: ‘He should do this, he should do that’ and he wants to see if he can do it himself.

“People are asking when will he make his debut, but I need to work with Rio for 10-12 weeks and then assess where we are before we can apply for his license.”


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