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December 1, 2012
Andrew Flintoff, the former England allrounder, picked himself up off the canvas to score a points victory on his boxing debut against the previously unbeaten American Richard Dawson in Manchester.
Flintoff has swapped the cricket square for the four-cornered ring, with his unlikely career move being filmed for a Sky TV documentary. He beat the count after being knocked to the canvas in the second round but his superior speed and work rate saw him awarded a narrow win by the judges.
Cheered on by his old international team-mate Darren Gough, Flintoff looked assured behind his jab but was extremely raw when going on the attack. However, after losing three-and-a-half stone during training, he has yet to decide whether he will fight again.
"I said at the start I knew I was starting at a novice level," Flintoff said. "You could see that, I am under no illusions and now I just want to take some time off. I want a rest, have a nice Christmas and not get up every day and go through what I have for the past five months. After Christmas I will decide what I will do next."
Flintoff's decision to step into the boxing ring has been criticised as a publicity stunt in some quarters, however. Frank Maloney, one of the most well-known promoters in British boxing, was dismissive of the bout and said Flintoff should not have been granted a licence by the British Boxing Board of Control.
"Last night was a joke," Maloney told The Telegraph. "The American looked like he was under orders. Once he'd knocked Flintoff down he backed off. All this does is deflect the attention from real boxers who have spent years in the gym and in the amateur ranks before developing careers in professional boxing.
"It was like watching two powder-puff punchers, and clearly Flintoff has no chin. If the Boxing Board allow Flintoff to continue boxing, they should be questioned over it. It was a novelty, and just a circus."
In front of a spirited home crowd, Flintoff entered the MEN Arena wearing a Lancashire Lightning shirt to the sound of Oasis' "Roll With It". The 34-year-old made a bright start, using his jab to good effect before sending the crowd wild with a big right against a cautious Dawson. However, Flintoff was sent to his knees after catching a right hand early in the second round, but he recovered well to keep himself in the fight.
Flintoff took the fight to Dawson, who seemed content to play defence, and after Flintoff landed some decent shots in the final round, the former England captain was awarded a 39-38 victory.
"As a personal achievement, I think this is the best. I've had to work so hard," Flintoff said. "The crowd made a massive difference tonight. I'll appreciate I was sloppy at times, but it was a humbling moment."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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The new stand-in captain has the makings of a long-term leader, given his ability to stay ahead of the game
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