MANCHESTER: Former England cricket captain Andrew Flintoff came off the canvas to mark his professional boxing debut with a points win over American heavyweight Richard Dawson on Friday. The 34-year-old was floored in the second round of a lively affair but after dominating the other three rounds had his hand raised in victory on a score of 39-38 on the referee's scorecard.
It was a deserved win for the former fast-bowling all-rounder who dropped more than 20kg to weigh in at 98kg for his first foray into boxing after a five-month training camp with former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan.
Around 5,000 fans turned up at the Manchester Arena -- including Flintoff's former England teammates Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison who were ringside to see the man more known for knocking wickets down than fighters.
"You mention the Ashes at international level, but as a personal achievement I think this is the best," Flintoff said on Box Nation. "It's something that isn't natural to me. I've had to work hard."
The 34-year-old, who has been training for four and a half months with former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan and his son Shane, added: "The feeling of being back in front of a crowd and winning at the end - I can't describe it. It's down to these guys (Barry and Shane McGuigan).
"I wanted to experience it. The people around Manchester, and the county, supported me so well playing cricket. It was a no-brainer to have it up here.
"The crowd made a massive difference. It's been amazing - humbling, really.