Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

The Critics Have Got Fred Wrong ; McGuigan Insists Flintoff Is Deadly Serious about His Switch to Boxing

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

The Critics Have Got Fred Wrong ; McGuigan Insists Flintoff Is Deadly Serious about His Switch to Boxing

Article excerpt

BARRY McGuigan is never allowed to forget just how dangerous boxing is.

For the last 30 years, the former world featherweight champion has been haunted by the death of one of his opponents - Young Ali.

McGuigan beat the Nigerian with a sixth-round knockout in June 1982. But on the way out of the ring Ali collapsed and slipped into a coma from which he never recovered. After five months in hospital, he died.

It shattered McGuigan, who almost quit boxing for good.

Even now, the Irishman admits he still thinks about that fateful night in London every day.

Which is why he is offended when critics blast Andrew Flintoff's attempt to switch from Ashes hero to professional boxer.

McGuigan is mentoring the former Lancashire and England cricketer and his son Shane is training Flintoff ahead of his ring debut against unbeaten American heavyweight Richard Dawson at the Manchester Arena on November 30.

It is a second career which Flintoff hopes will result in a fight in America at some point.

But despite Freddie shedding 45lbs and sparring over 200 rounds at McGuigan's gym in Battersea over the last few months, the project has been criticised by several members of the boxing fraternity.

Frank Maloney - who promotes British heavyweight champion David Price - joined the doubters by saying last week: "Giving Flintoff a professional licence with no experience of boxing is a joke. It gives our sport a bad name."

But McGuigan has hit back, saying boxing is too dangerous a sport not to take seriously.

"People may think Freddie is doing this for a joke. But I don't take kindly to those remarks," McGuigan told M.E.N. Sport.

"I know from my own experience boxing is a very serious business.

We don't do boxing for a joke.

That's why when you are involved in this sport, you do things right, you don't cut corners or do things by half.

"Freddie's change in body shape shows how seriously we are all taking this fight. The change in him is remarkable. …

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