Boxing: Ricky Hatton behind Andrew Flintoff ahead of former cricketer's professional boxing debut

Former England captain fights Richard Dawson tonight

Ricky Hatton is fully behind Andrew Flintoff as the former England cricketer prepares to make his professional boxing debut at Manchester Arena tonight.

The 34-year-old will fight 23-year-old American Richard Dawson over four two-minute rounds in a heavyweight contest.

Flintoff, who weighed in almost two stone lighter than his opponent yesterday at 15 stone six pounds, has been training for four and a half months with former world champion Barry McGuigan and his son Shane.

Flintoff's change of sport has not been welcomed by everyone within boxing, but Hatton told Press Association Sport: "I've got massive respect for him.

"How many sports stars say, 'You know what, I could do cricket, I could do tennis, I could do football but boxing's one game I couldn't do?' Well Freddie's doing it and he deserves the utmost respect for doing it.

"He's right there in the spotlight, talk about the pressure being on, but the one thing is, whether it be cricket or boxing, he's a professional, he's a professional person, and the way he's conducted himself, the way he's prepared for this, with the team behind him, I think it'll be a massive success."

Hatton refuted claims Flintoff is diminishing boxing with the fight, which comes a week after Hatton bowed out of the sport after defeat at Manchester Arena.

"He's got a passion for boxing, I don't think he'd make a mockery of the sport, I don't think the McGuigans would make a mockery of the sport," said Hatton.

"Freddie and the McGuigan team have gone into this totally with their eyes wide open. He deserves to pursue a passion just as much as anyone so let's get behind him and cheer him on and hope he does well."

Flintoff has lost almost three and a half stone in training for the fight, and Hatton added: "He punches as hard as he hits a cricket ball.

"He was in my gym this week and he looks really prepared. And it's not about whether he has one fight or 101 fights or whether he wins a title. He's giving something a go."

Hatton had hoped his comeback after three and a half years in retirement would last longer but he conceded the time was right following his ninth-round knockdown against Vyacheslav Senchenko.

And nearly a week on the 34-year-old, still bearing the scars of battle, knows he made the right decision.

"I feel great," he said. "I had a little bit of a cry in the ring, which was obviously very difficult for me, I wanted to finish on a win and try to finish with a fifth world title.

"But ultimately I got what I wanted from it. I needed to find out whether I still had it, and I sadly haven't, and I'm happy for giving it a go."

PA

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