Freddie Flintoff has suggested that boxing is the toughest challenge he has faced, just a couple of weeks before he makes his debut against an American heavyweight.
While his former England cricket team-mates were completing their preparations ahead of the first Test in India tomorrow, a paired down Flintoff talked in a Soho hotel about his preference for Brett Lee bouncers over punches.
“I had a bat in my hand and helmet on when I was facing him. Now all I’ve got is a pair of gloves,” Flintoff said, dismissing the idea that his boxing experiment is merely a publicity stunt.
”From where I started to where I am now this is the hardest thing I have ever done bar none. If I were going to do a stunt I would have done something a bit easier. There are others things you could do like dancing on telly or something like that.”
Flintoff will contest a four-round bout in Manchester on November 30 against a novice American heavyweight with two pro fights behind him. His remodelled nose and honed musculature bear testimony to the effort invested. “With cricket there was a mental aspect that was different. But this is just taking it to a whole different level. It is so hard getting yourself up for it every day, to get out of bed at five or six in the morning to go sparring, to get through the training.”
Flintoff defends his move against accusations that it somehow brings boxing into disrepute. Accompanying the bout is a documentary screened by Sky detailing the process. “I can understand people wanting to defend their sport. I would feel the same about cricket. Hopefully the documentary will show what a tough sport boxing is. I don’t think a lot people understand just how hard boxing is. Our intention is not to cheapen the sport, but to show it for what it is, to celebrate it. Ultimately I’m a boxing fan.”
Between sparring sessions and pad work Flintoff will be watching developments on the sub-continent and believes the return of Kevin Pietersen gives England the edge.
“It’s great to be watching as a fan. That’s how I got into the sport so I’ll be keeping an eye on the team. It’s great to have Pietersen back in the side. I think he will be a key player and if he scores big runs we have a great chance.”