Flintoff: From Slogger, To Slugger

Flintoff: From Lord’s to the Ring, Sky 1,Thursday 9pm

On 30th November Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff will complete his remarkable transformation from ‘fat boy’ cricketer to lean, mean fighting machine. Following an encounter with Barry McGuigan, the idea spawned and escalated into an opportunity he could not pass up – feeling that he had plenty to give following his early retirement from cricket at the age of 31.

Critics have argued that the bout ‘cheapens’ boxing; Barry responded that he believes that the bout will promote the sport and accuses those critics of being ‘â€?green eyed monstersâ€?. McGuigan insists this is not a stunt; it is a challenge involving a complete lifestyle change that requires wholehearted commitment. The argument over the ‘cheapness’ of this bout are merely opinions shared by those critics who believe Freddie is doing this for a bit of fun and is therefore disrespecting the sport of boxing. This is simply not the case, and Freddie is looking to silence these critics by performing well in the ring.

Freddie admitted that being introduced to Sugar Ray Leonard during training was akin to meeting Sachin Tendulkar for the first time. Something he believes illustrates the respect he has for boxing, as well as disproving the critics who doubt his intentions.

Although Freddie has the persona of a laid back, jovial giant; the punishing fitness regime introduced by Shane McGuigan has led to a 45-pound weight loss and an admittance by Freddie that this is “the biggest challenge he has ever faced, more so than the Ashes victory in 2005.â€?

He has been managed and trained by Barry and Shane McGuigan; but has received further advice from Sugar Ray Leonard who talked about the importance of speed and technique. Whilst Mike Tyson discussed the psychological aspects of walking into the ring.

Whilst learning to box is one thing, the lifestyle change that had to be embraced is quite another. Shane said “the nutritional aspects of Freddie’s lifestyle were the hardest to get to grips withâ€?, leading to a ban on alcohol and a strict diet (a whole new experience for the former cricketer and party animal).

A view supported by his friend, James Corden, who said that “Freddie not being able to drink on my stag do was the equivalent of holding a WeightWatchers meeting in a Mr Kipling factory.â€?

Widely considered a natural on the wicket, Freddie is still just a rookie in the ring; although he has never been afraid of a challenge – recovering from frequent embarrassment and numerous injuries during his cricketing career. Despite not enjoying his first knock out, boxing has allowed Freddie to confront personal issues he had when he was younger and put them to rest.

As a child Freddie was subject to taunts about his physique, something that would continue throughout his career, albeit mostly in a light-hearted manner. This fight enabled him to get into the shape of his life and prove those doubters and taunters wrong. One of Flintoff’s playground memories was of a bully who hit him and he did not react, something he has wrangled with for the rest of his life.

Flintoff views boxing as a chance to prove that he is not just a gentle giant and once again show just how fierce and dedicated a competitor he really is. The transformation shows him as a gentle giant, yet aggressive and determined. Shane and Barry admitted his ability to rise to the occasion would enable him to overcome the emotional and mental aspects on the night.

It remains to be seen whether this is a one-off fight, or an entirely new career path for one of England’s most revered cricketers and entertaining personalities.

Dan Willis