Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff, the finest England fast bowler of recent years, forced to retire early because his huge body could no longer take the pounding which is every paceman’s destiny, may resume his sporting career as a boxer.
Don’t laugh. Flintoff may even achieve as many miracles as a boxer as he did as a cricketer where he played a major part in the regaining of the Ashes in 2005 and was the inspiration for the rebuilding of the team that – all too briefly – reached the top of the ICC rankings.
But boxing? Really, Freddie you will find it difficult to make the fans of either sport take you seriously.
Mr. Nice Guy
For one thing stands out to me; you are too much Mr. Nice Guy and too little the ruthless thug needed to compete for a heavyweight championship.
Remember the famous picture of Freddie kneeling besides Brett Lee and consoling him after his brave attempt to keep England from winning at Edgbaston as it began its fight for the Ashes which had been in Australia’s possession so long it seemed as if it were part of its permanent baggage.
Boxers don’t offer commiseration to their fallen opponents. They bite your ear as Mike Tyson did, they hit you below the belt even though they know you have plenty of protection in that area and they are nicknamed Stone Hands like Roberto Duran. Certainly not “Freddie”.
Can you imagine Flintoff, for all he once weighed 17st 10lb like Lennox Lewis, committing any of these sins? I cannot.
Rather he’s a joker. Do you recall his tempting remark to Tino Best at Lord’s when Best had made it clear he had come to the wicket to hit. “Tino, watch out for those windows. They have just been repaired and they cost a lot of money.” Best immediately made another attempt to break those precious panes of glass and was out.
One of Andrew Flintoff’s possible opponents is Adam Hollioake who several times on my many tours came to chat with me and Dave Field about boxing, with which he was obviously enchanted.
Field was also a boxing correspondent and a fascinating conversationalist about such British heroes as Henry Cooper, who came near to stopping Cassius Clay, later Muhammad Ali 50 years ago. Hollioake was a dedicated listener in those conversations after play and now he has turned to boxing – in his forties – and won his first bout.
Hollioake, an Australian who captained Surrey and the England side which won the 1997 Sharjah Cup, had that streak of ruthlessness that boxers need. He introduced Surrey to several unorthodox ideas, like ignoring opponents instead of greeting them like old friends.
He too was, by the standards of professional boxing much too sporting, too gentle and too ready to forget and forgive, to be a true heavyweight champion.
I suspect that he and Andrew Flintoff are simply bored with life that does not contain the excitement cricket brought and are — remember they are hardly middle-aged but retired — trying to find an occupation that will give their lives a meaning.
The idea of these gentlemanly cricketers taking up a rough trade like boxing is bizarre; almost as bizarre as the other great myth of recent days that we will soon be playing Twenty20 cricket in America.
All attempts to plant baseball in this country have failed and for all America has more cricket than you might think and its publicity gimmicks are bound to be bold and imaginative I cannot see T20 flourishing any time soon in the United States.