• Andrew Flintoff v Richard Dawson

Flintoff has the 'spite' for first fight

ESPN staff
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Andrew Flintoff is set to make his professional boxing debut at Aintree on Friday night © PA Photos
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Andrew Flintoff believes he has finally developed a boxer's mentality as he prepares to step into the ring for his first professional fight on Friday night.

The former England cricket captain faces Richard Dawson over four two-minute rounds in Manchester, to be televised after David Price's British and Commonwealth title defence against Matt Skelton at Aintree.

And while the 34-year-old has trimmed down to 15st for his first bout, he admits the gym work was only half the battle as he struggled to come to terms with hurting an opponent, stopping a sparring session in training to check on his partner.

"I've developed a bit more spite since then," Flintoff told the Daily Mail. "You'll see. It's feeling a bit more natural. I feel like a boxer.

"It's funny, when you go on planes and you fill in those forms that ask for your occupation - I put that I'm a boxer now."

Flintoff's debut in the ring has divided opinion in boxing circles, with some pundits and boxers, including Price, dismissing his switch from the Oval to the ring as a 'joke'.

"It hasn't felt like a joke," Flintoff said. "It's not a stunt. If you don't take this sport seriously you get hurt. Believe me, I'm serious about this. I've put a lot into this."

The former Ashes hero has come a long way in a short time, having first started training to gaining his boxing licence - at the second attempt - in the space of a year.

Pep talks from Sugar Ray Leonard and Mike Tyson and giving up alcohol have followed as Barry and Shane McGuigan put Flintoff through his paces, only recently introducing full-contact sparring with no headguards.

"That was a big step," Flintoff added. "You feel sharper but also more vulnerable. You obviously feel the punches more. But it was the next step. It's all a process.

"It has been a very long, hard road to here - I was starting right from scratch. It has been my life for four months. The months of diet, eating steak at 6am, training, sparring, bleeding noses, thick lips - it's all been for this fight. I have done this properly.

"I understand people having opinions about this, that is fine - people are protective of their sport, as I'd be of cricket. People had opinions of me when I played cricket. But we are not trying to disrespect the sport. I would never do that - I genuinely love boxing."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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