Rio Ferdinand is to attempt to become a professional boxer, it can be revealed. The former Manchester United and England captain will confirm he is taking up the sport at what is being billed as a “major news announcement” on Tuesday afternoon.
Ferdinand will try to follow in the footsteps of Conor McGregor, the Ultimate Fighting Championship star who last month lost to Floyd Mayweather on his boxing debut.
He will also seek to emulate Curtis Woodhouse, the former Sheffield United striker who went on to become British light-welterweight champion.
This year has seen BBC and BT Sport pundit Ferdinand, 38, post footage of himself in boxing training on his Instagram page.
In a video uploaded in January, he can be seen doing pad work with former rugby union centre Mel Deane while calling out British boxing stars Anthony Joshua, David Haye and Tony Bellew.
Between each flurry of punches, he yells: “Tony Bellew? I’m here. I’m waiting. I’m ready, pal. Are you ready?
“David Haye, you want some? I’m here, mate. I’m here. Working.
“AJ, we had a holiday together, mate, Dubai. I’ll take you out. I will cut you down. I’ll take you out, AJ! Come on son! You want some!”
In a post alongside a similar video in June, Ferdinand goaded former world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, saying: “Boxing Fridays… left right left right… boom! Don’t beat round the bush… When ya get ur licence back Tyson Fury?!!”
Ferdinand, who will need a licence himself in order to box professionally, also revealed this summer how keeping himself in shape had helped clear his mind after the death of his wife.
Breast cancer claimed the life of Rebecca Ellison two years ago, the same year Ferdinand retired from football.
Discussing how his post-retirement fitness regime helped him cope with bereavement, he told Men’s Health that it “enabled me to free my mind”.
He said his gym work replicated the “release time” football had provided him until he left the game, adding that “until you start working out regularly, you don’t understand it. You don’t understand that sometimes that hour, or even that brief 20 minutes you snatch as and when, can be the most chilled out hour or 20 minutes of your day”.
“Without the gym,” Ferdinand said, “I don’t know where I would’ve had that release time – that time just to think about nothing, or to think about something other than what was going on in my life.”
Ferdinand spoke of the beneficial effect that working out had on his mental health.
He said: “I’m simply happier when I’m in the gym and working out, and I think everything else flows better when I’m doing that. It invigorates me and calms me at the same time.”
In March, Ferdinand made a BBC documentary that charted his life as a widower.
In ‘Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad’, the former West Ham United and Leeds United defender allowed cameras into his grieving after a year of silence.
In the programme, he discussed the difficulty of taking sole care of his children, Lorenz, Tate and Tia, and talked about men’s reluctance to speak about grief.
“There’s this machismo that comes out,” he told Men’s Health. “Feelings and emotions are not seen as something that’s macho enough to talk about. There’s a taboo there and that was a part of the documentary that we wanted to explore and break down a bit. Men need to learn how to speak and to open themselves up. It’s okay to feel vulnerable at times.”