London, Nov 28(ANI): Former England Test cricketer Andrew Flintoff has rejected claims that his decision to become a professional boxer is a joke or a publicity stunt, and added that he genuinely loves the sport.
Frank Maloney, a promoter, said Flintoff is making boxing a laughing stock and branded Flintoff's debut fight against Richard Dawson in Manchester on November 30 a publicity stunt.
Maloney cited James Cracknell's charity fight in 2007 that left the two-time Olympic gold medal-winning rower unconscious.
Meanwhile, heavyweight David Price also called the whole thing a joke.
"It hasn't felt like a joke. It's not a stunt. If you don't take this sport seriously you get hurt. Believe me, I'm serious about this. I've put a lot into this," the Daily Mail quoted Flintoff, as saying.
What started last year with an impromptu pad session with Barry during filming for another programme progressed recently to hard, full-contact sparring with no head guards.
"That was a big step. You feel sharper but also more vulnerable. You obviously feel the punches more. But it was the next step. It's all a process," Flintoff said.
"It has been a very long, hard road to here - I was starting right from scratch. It has been my life for four months. The months of diet, eating steak at 6am, training, sparring, bleeding noses, thick lips - it's all been for this fight. I have done this properly," he added.
"I understand people having opinions about this, that is fine - people are protective of their sport, as I'd be of cricket. People had opinions of me when I played cricket. But we are not trying to disrespect the sport. I would never do that - I genuinely love boxing," he said. (ANI)