Betfair is teaming up with Rio Ferdinand for a new 'Defender to Contender' project which will see the former England footballer transform himself into a professional boxer.

The operator will help the former Manchester United and England star qualify for his British Boxing Board of Control (BBBOC) licence before he then begins training and competing for a title belt.

It follows a campaign last year which saw Betfair help Victoria Pendleton transition from Olympic cyclist to Cheltenham jockey in the 'Switching Saddles' challenge.

Betfair is preparing Ferdinand by assembling a team of world-class boxing and conditioning experts to support him throughout the journey, including former WBC super-middleweight Champion turned Team GB trainer Richie Woodhall.

"When Betfair approached me about the Defender to Contender challenge, the chance to prove myself in a new sport was a real draw,” said Ferdinand. "Boxing is an amazing sport for the mind and the body. I have always had a passion for it and this challenge is the perfect opportunity to show people what's possible.

“It's a challenge I'm not taking lightly - clearly not everyone can become a professional boxer - but with the team of experts Betfair are putting together and the drive I have to succeed, anything is possible."

Betfair will also introduce a number of former and current boxers to Rio at key points in the campaign to help him prepare for specific fights and hone specific skills.

"In all honesty, I think Rio can definitely box as a professional given time,” said Woodhall. “He has natural power in his right hand, is extremely fit and is very enthusiastic to learn which is encouraging.

"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."

Ferdinand isn’t the first sportsman to try his hand at boxing, with former England cricketer Andrew Flintoff taking to the ring after being awarded a BBOC licence in 2012. He won his first and only fight against Richard Dawson, although the match was described at the time as a “circus” by promotor Frank Maloney.

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