Boxing: Woodhouse is ready for another shot at big time

 

Former footballer turned fighter Curtis Woodhouse has a message for the putative pugilist Andrew Flintoff: It's not cricket. "I like Fred and wish him well," says the one-time England Under-21 midfielder who boxes for the English light-welterweight title in Rotherham on Friday as the man from across the Pennines prepares to make his own ring debut in Manchester next month."But this is an altogether different ball game.

"Swapping sports and going into boxing is not easy and if he thinks it is, he is in for a huge surprise. I just hope he is preparing himself right and will know what to do when someone comes at him looking to smack him in the mouth.

"He was at the top of his game as a cricketer so he'll know that to be the same in another sport you have to be 100 per cent dedicated. Everyone is writing him off already but actually if he is serious about this, and puts the right work ethic into boxing, he could do well.

"If this is something he really wants to do, and it is not just a gimmick, then who are we to say he can't? He has the right to say 'I'm going for it', as I did."

But that was six years ago when Woodhouse, who had never boxed as an amateur, became one of the few to make a successful transition from from playing field to prize ring. He was 26 and as he warns, it will be much harder for 33-year-old Flintoff, whose excursion into the fight game as part of a Sky documentary has been described by sceptic promoter Frank Warren as "car crash television".

Beverley-born Woodhouse , who is now back in football part-time as manager of the Northern Premier League side Sheffield FC, the world's oldest club, was as useful with his feet as he now is with his fists. He commanded a £1m fee when Trevor Francis took him from Sheffield United to Birmingham City in 2001, and played over 300 games in League football. His career also embraced four Under-21 caps, and spells at Rotherham, Peterborough, Hull and Grimsby. He eventually combined his ring appearances with day jobs at several non-League clubs and as a coach at Lincoln.

"It was when I was with Birmingham in the Premier League that I realised that, at the time, I had completely fallen out of love with football. It depressed me. I just felt dead. I know there are many who won't be able to understand that, because I earned good money and had a great lifestyle, but I wasn't fulfilled.

"Boxing had always been my first love. I used to scrap in the street at the drop of a hat and often got into trouble. I was a bit of a bad lad. I was called a few names due to the colour of my skin but with a quick smack in the mouth they soon backed off."

Football and fighting are not uncommon sparmates and Woodhouse was a chippy, aggressive player. "I used to spar in a gym after football without the manager knowing. At Sheffield Neil Warnock would drag me in and say, 'I hear you've been boxing'. I'd be standing there with a big black eye and a fat lip and deny it."

Woodhouse made his ring debut in September 2006 and has won 16 of his 20 bouts. Last year he came close to a sensational upset, taking the unbeaten rising star Frankie Gavin to a split decision, a fight many thought he had won. His dream is to be British champion, and Friday's contest with Derby's Dave "Rocky" Ryan, 29, at Rotherham's Magna Centre is an eliminator for that title.

The next day he will be in the dug-out at Sheffield FC's ground behind the Coach and Horses in Dronfield, where he has similarly ambitious title hopes for the club he has managed since May. When we spoke last week he was on his way to Grisley, where they won 3-2, after his 5am roadwork and afternoon sparring.

Boxing, he says, has taken him to levels of fitness he never thought possible. "Everything I've done in boxing has been so much more professional, so much harder than anything I've experienced in football. Football training is kids' stuff by comparison."

His remarkable career switch was "one hell of a gamble". He says: "This is something I've wanted to do all my life, but football got in the way. I don't want to be sitting at the end of a bar when I'm 50 wishing I'd had a go at boxing. I really do believe I can become a champion."

We're told Freddie Flintoff feels the same, though whether he will after that first smack in the mouth remains to be seen.

Sport's switch hitters

Andrew Flintoff is not the first England cricket captain to box. Adam Hollioake had one winning pro bout last April as a heavyweight boxer in Australia, where he now lives, aged 41 after being declared bankrupt with business debts of £14m. Now he is a Mixed Martial Arts cage fighter.

Former rugby World Cup-winning All Black Sonny Bill Williams is the current New Zealand heavyweight champion after five pro fights.

Australian Anthony Mundine, the son of a boxer, gave up a successful rugby league career and became the WBA super-middleweight champion.

Mark Gasteneau, the New York Jets line-backer, boxed as a heavyweight but retired in 1996 after losing to another famous ex-footballer, Alonzo Highsmith, the Houston Oilers running back, who had 23 KOs.

Former Dallas Cowboys running back Ed "Too Tall" Jones, who was 6ft 9in, won six heavyweight bouts in 1979 before returning to football.

Alan Hubbard

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own