Rio Ferdinand, the former Manchester United and England captain, is to attempt to become a professional boxer.
The 38-year-old has confirmed he is taking up the sport in what had been billed as a “major news announcement”.
Ferdinand will try to follow in the footsteps of Conor McGregor, the Ultimate Fighting Championship star who last month lost to Floyd Mayweather on his boxing debut.
He will also seek to emulate Curtis Woodhouse, the former Sheffield United midfielder who went on to a successful boxing career, becoming British lightwelterweight champion.
Woodhouse tweeted his support on Monday night, saying: “Wish Rio Ferdinand all the very best if he decides to give pro boxing a go. Who is anybody to say what he can or can’t do. Live ya life.”
Ferdinand, who is hoping to get his British Boxing Board of Control licence with the help of bookmaker Betfair, said on Tuesday morning: “When Betfair approached me about the Defender to Contender challenge, the chance to prove myself in a new sport was a real draw.
“Boxing is an amazing sport for the mind and the body. I have always had a passion for it and this challenge is the perfect opportunity to show people what’s possible. It’s a challenge I’m not taking lightly, clearly not everyone can become a professional boxer, but with the team of experts Betfair are putting together and the drive I have to succeed, anything is possible.”
Ferdinand, the BBC and BT Sport pundit, has posted footage of himself this year in boxing training on his Instagram page. In a video uploaded in January, he can be seen doing pad work with former rugby union centre Mel Deane while calling out British boxing stars Anthony Joshua, David Haye and Tony Bellew.
Between each flurry of punches, he yells: “Tony Bellew? I’m here. I’m waiting. I’m ready, pal. Are you ready?
“David Haye, you want some? I’m here, mate. I’m here. Working.
“AJ, we had a holiday together, mate, Dubai. I’ll take you out. I will cut you down. I’ll take you out, AJ! Come on son! You want some!”
In a post alongside a similar video in June, Ferdinand goaded former world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, saying: “Boxing Fridays… left right left right… boom! Don’t beat round the bush… When ya get ur licence back Tyson Fury?!!”
Ferdinand, who will need a licence himself in order to box professionally, also revealed this summer how keeping himself in shape had helped clear his mind after the death of his wife.
Breast cancer claimed the life of Rebecca Ellison two years ago, the same year Ferdinand retired from football.