RIGHT: Former England cricketer-turned professional boxer Andrew Flintoff (right) fights US boxer Richard Dawson in their heavyweight bout at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, north-west England on Friday night. Flintoff won the fight on points to score a victory in his first professional bout. BELOW: Flintoff talks with opponent Dawson after Flintoff won their heavyweight boxing bout.
MANCHESTER: Andrew Flintoff will take his time before deciding if he would continue boxing after his successful heavyweight debut against American Richard Dawson.
The former England cricket captain beat Dawson 39-38 on points after a lively affair in front of 5,000 raucous fans at the Manchester Arena, but only after being knocked down in the second round of the four-round contest.
The 34-year-old said he will wait until after Christmas before deciding if he will continue his foray into the paid-ranks of boxing.
“I really enjoyed it. I said at the start that I knew I was starting at a novice level,” said the former England all-rounder, who sported a black eye in his post-fight news conference.
“I want some time off, have a nice Christmas. After Christmas I will start to decide what to do. It is quite fresh, still quite raw what happened.”
Flintoff had been accused in some boxing quarters of demeaning the sport by thinking he could just casually walk into the professional ranks.
But that did not stop former England team-mates, Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison, being at ringside to see the man who was twice an Ashes winner during his cricket career.
Flintoff entered the ring wearing the shirt of his county team, Lancashire.
But it was a walk very different to the one he used to make from the pavilion to the crease, this time the roped-off ring awaited him after Dawson had entered to a chorus of boos.
It was, by Flintoff’s admission, a sluggish affair but he started the fight well, pawing out jabs while Dawson looked disinterested from the off.
But in the second round, the American caught him off balance with an accurate, but hardly powerful, left that put the Englishman on the canvas.
He beat the count and recovered, before regaining his composure and dominating the final two rounds to deservedly take the contest.
“It was probably everything and more,” said Flintoff.
“It was not one for the purists. Walking out there with the crowd, completely different feeling than I ever had before.
“I think I got the full experience. I got the canvas, black eye and the win. It was like an out of body experience.
“Shane (McGuigan, his coach) said you worked so hard don’t leave anything in the ring. In my cricket career that was similar to how I played. It was a bit ragged and arms going, I just wanted to leave it all in the ring.
“This was not about degrading boxing, we wanted to show boxing as it is, a fantastic thing.”
Flintoff also hinted that his heavyweight boxing victory over Dawson may have been his greatest sporting achievement.
Asked how the victory compared to his many other great performances, Flintoff told Box Nation: “You can mention the Ashes at international level but, as a personal achievement, I think this is the best. It’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me and I’ve had to work hard. I couldn’t have done it without these two guys (the two McGuigans).”
He added: “The feeling of being out in front of a crowd again, and then winning, I can’t describe it. The people around Manchester, and the county, supported me so well when I was playing cricket that it was a no-brainer to have it up here.”
The former English all-rounder explained: “The crowd can really make a difference and their support tonight was amazing and humbling.” Asked if he might fight again, he added: “We’ll see how we go, I’ll have to speak to the missus! I know I was sloppy at times tonight but I’m not pretending to be something I’m not. I’m a novice heavyweight and I’ve got no aspirations, don’t worry!”