Andrew Flintoff denies his reinvention as a boxer demeans the sport with trainer Barry McGuigan claiming any criticism is motivated by jealousy.
Flintoff will make his professional debut in Manchester on November 30 in a four-round fight against novice American Richard Dawson, who has won both of his bouts. Strong opposition from within boxing has greeted the former England cricket captain's decision to swap bat for gloves.
Frank Warren and David Price described it as "car crash TV", while Frank Maloney branded it a "scandal". But Flintoff, who lost 45lbs during a four-month training camp filmed for a three-part series to be screened on Sky1HD, insists his motives are honourable. He said: "You couldn't go through this for a TV stunt."
He continued: "If I was looking for a publicity stunt I'd have picked something easier. There's other things I could have done. There's been criticism of things I've done in the past. I'm just getting my head down and doing the best I can.
"I appreciate that people want to protect the sport they're involved in. I'd be the same with cricket. I'm hoping this is something where boxing is celebrated because it's not my intention to cheapen the sport or show it up. We want to show the sport in the best possible light because ultimately I'm a boxing fan as well."
McGuigan mounted a robust defence of the project at the preview screening of 'The Gloves Are Off', the first episode of which will be aired on November 22 at 9pm. Former WBA featherweight champion McGuigan, 51, oversaw Flintoff's training with his son Shane acting as the technical and strength and conditioning coach
"What we're doing is the opposite to cheapening the sport, it's promoting it. You see the pain and anguish Freddie goes though," McGuigan said.
"How can that be negative in promoting the sport? To say it cheapens boxing is a complete and utter load of nonsense. It's a case of the green-eyed monster I'm afraid. Freddie's worked his nuts off and we're promoting the sport in a very positive way. We could have done white collar or amateur boxing, but that's not real. This is real."
In the sparring sessions seen in episode one Flintoff, who has no amateur background, is strong but limited and is generally treated sympathetically by opponents. McGuigan accepted there are rough edges but praises the 2005 Ashes winner's attitude.
"Let's be honest, Freddie is a novice. There's been a monumental change physically," he said. "Technically he has a lot to work on, but we'll keep at that. He's a great pupil. He's not a natural but he works very hard. He gets there because he's so determined."
- Sports & Recreation
- Andrew Flintoff
- Barry McGuigan