Richie Woodhall takes Rio Ferdinand under his wing

By Jamie Brassington | Boxing | Published:

Former world champion boxer Richie Woodhall has been handed one of the toughest assignments of his career in or out of the ring after agreeing to train former England football captain Rio Ferdinand in the noble art.

Former WBC super-middleweight champion Richie Woodhall, ex-England captain Rio Ferdinand and personal trainer Mel Deane

Woodhall, from Telford, will help Ferdinand in his pursuit of a boxing license and then a title shot as part of a campaign in partnership with betting company Betfair called called ‘Defender to Contender’.

And he believes the ex-Manchester United defender – who retired from playing in 2015 – has what it takes despite taking to a new sport relatively late.

“In all honesty, I think Rio can definitely box as a professional given time,” said Woodhall, 49. “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.”

Woodhall competed as a professional boxer for a decade between 1990 in 2000, in which time he held the WBC super-middleweight title between 1998 and 1999.

He also held the Commonwealth middleweight title between 1992 and1995, alongside the European middleweight title from 1995 and 1996 and now works as a pundit for the BBC and BT Sport. Ferdinand, meanwhile, had a football career that spanned 15 years.

He won 81 England caps, alongside six Premier League titles and a Champions League crown for Manchester United.

And Ferdinand, who also played for West Ham, Leeds and QPR, recognises just how difficult his task ahead is.

“Boxing is an amazing sport for the mind and the body,” he said. “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.”

Jamie Brassington

By Jamie Brassington
Senior Multi-Media Journalist - @JamieB_Star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star. Contact me at


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