Boxing: All heart and hustle, Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff storms home

Former England cricket star won contest 39-38 on referee Phil Edwards' scorecard

The Manchester Arena

It was never going to be pretty. Those who saw him bat and bowl could vouch for that. But what you always get with Freddie Flintoff is commitment, enthusiasm and heart.

On his professional boxing debut here, Flintoff added little to our understanding of the game. What he did do was enthral a packed house, who  enjoyed every minute of what was in truth no better than a cab-rank fight.

Richard Dawson proved a durable foe and even had Flintoff over with a flash knockdown in the second round. It was a sharp lesson the American did not have a clue how to harvest.

Flintoff simply dusted himself down and continued with the agricultural barrage. A respectable gathering of friends from the world of cricket and television, Darren Gough, Rob Key, Steve Harmison, Jack Whitehall and John Bishop, squeezed in at ringside wondering what their chum was doing putting himself through this torment.

On the undercard Peter McDonagh had stood before Bradley Saunders for eight ugly rounds swallowing leather. Flintoff’s wife Rachael sat at ringside as Saunders went through his repertoire. She could barely watch.

And then at 10 minutes to eleven Dawson was welcomed into the ring. A year ago he was reflecting on a three-month spell in a Oklahoma slammer convicted of aggravated assault and battery. He looked well prepared for his night’s work.

Flintoff bounced through the ropes to the sound of Oasis singing “Roll With It”. This was some kind of boxing debut, Lord’s with spit and sawdust on the wicket. An ashen face beaded with sweat betrayed his hyped state. He advanced behind a stiff jab and chopping right, catching Dawson with a swathe of lusty blows.

Flintoff was a revelation. Not for his command of technique but his fighting heart. He walked onto a counter early in the second and received a standing count. It was more his own momentum that sent him tumbling rather than the weight of shot by Dawson.

Back at his corner he complained bitterly to trainer Shane McGuigan, who told him to set aside his disappointment and focus. In his eagerness to dispatch his man Flintoff was often falling into punches rather than planting his feet as boxing orthodoxy demands.

The crowd loved him for it. Four and half months of training went out of the window when the bell went. All those disciplines carefully drilled by the McGuigan clan evaporating in the heat of battle. Freddie was all hustle and  bustle. The clean shot was never going to come. Still he was the busier man and  exploded into the fourth landing with a roundhouse right.

Rachael was watching now, screaming her instructions and clapping along with the animated throng. Over came that big right again. In the corner Shane implored him to swing from below. It was too late for that. He is a long way from landing an uppercut.

It ended in a blur of meshed flesh tangled on the ropes, Dawson trying to escape the flailing windmill  crowding him out. Of course he got the decision, by a point. And yes, down he went on one knee à la Lord’s after an Ashes  five-for.

“Freddie, Freddie” yelled the crowd, acclaiming our hero. It was marvellous stuff, not boxing as we know it, but the punters lapped it up.

Life and Style
health
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
News
people
Sport
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: C# Project Team Lead

£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...

Guru Careers: Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant

£16 - 20k: Guru Careers: A Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant is needed to ...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine