Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff says he needs time to consider whether to fight again after winning his debut heavyweight boxing match.
The former England cricketer and dad-of-three, from Ribbleton, overcame a knockdown to win the four-round contest against American novice Richard Dawson in a close points decision, 39-38.
Around 6,000 fans packed into the Manchester Arena to watch the culmination of a Sky TV documentary, which saw the 34-year-old drop from around 18st 10lbs to 15st 4lbs to get in shape for the fight.
A rendition of the theme tune from Test Match Special whipped the crowd into a frenzy and when Freddie entered the ring in his old Lancashire County shirt to the sound of Oasis’ Roll With It, the noise was deafening.
Chants of ‘There’s only one Freddie Flintoff’ rolled down the aisles, as the 6ft 4ins star waded into his opponent early on, throwing a series of wild punches and slaps.
What he lacked in finesse he made up for in effort - spurred on by his wife Rachel, comedians John Bishop and Jack Whitehall, who appear with Freddie on Sky panel show A League of Their Own, and ex-England teammates Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Darren Gough.
And despite losing the second round after receiving a left cross which saw him lose his footing, Freddie had Dawson reeling in the third and fourth.
Speaking after the match, he said: “Walking out there when the crowd got behind me, it was a completely different feeling to the sparring and training and all the work over the past four and a half months.
“I think I got the full experience didn’t I? I got the canvas, I got the black eye and I got the win. It was amazing. It was like an out of body experience.
“I got caught and went down, it was a half decent shot and I was off balance. I stood up and the ref said ‘what’s your name?’
“I thought ‘what?’ and said ‘Freddie isn’t it?’ It made me even more determined. I didn’t want it to finish then.
“I’ve had a novice heavyweight fight and it was brilliant. When you’ve had the opportunity to represent what I think is the best county in the world, I’ve had the chance to play for England in Ashes series and be successful, I think that is massive.
“But with this it’s a personal achievement and a personal battle with something that doesn’t come that naturally to me.
“The battles I’ve had to play with my mind, breaking down barriers every day and trying to improve in something which I don’t do, on a personal level, has been as good as anything.”
Freddie conceded his gutsy performance “wasn’t one for the purists” and was unlikely to have won over critics from the boxing world, some who branded the fight a ‘stunt’ and said he should not have been granted a professional boxing licence.
He said: “I appreciate that people are passionate about sport and people want to protect their sport - I’d be the same with cricket and boxing is no different.
“There’s a few who have tried to steal a few headlines, granted, but on the whole people are passionate about sport.
“This whole process was never about degrading boxing. We wanted to do it properly, which we’ve done.
“We wanted to show boxing for what it is, a fantastic sport, and I wanted to show what boxers go through. Sometimes I don’t thing they get the credit they deserve.
“I think boxing should be right up there. There are some amazing people and I’ve seen some amazing things over the past few months.”
Flintoff had been training under the tutelage of boxing legend and promoter Barry McGuigan and his son Shane.
He said: “The McGuigan name within boxing is massive and I was aware that when I walked out I was carrying that as well.
“I’m just glad that I’ve come out of there with a win and with that intact because these two guys are the ones who put themselves out there more than I have and I could not thank them enough.
“These are special fellas.”
He said he would now wait to make a decision on whether he has a future in the sport.
He said: “I gave it everything I’ve got and it’s nice that it worked out well for me.
“I said at the start I knew I was starting at a novice level and you’ve seen that tonight. I’m under no illusions.
“Now I just want some time off to be honest, some time to rest and have a nice Christmas and not get up every day and go through what I’ve been through every day for the last four months.
“After Christmas I’ll decide what I’m going to do next.”
Before leaving the press conference Freddie thanked his hometown support for helping him clinch victory.
He said: “There are quite a few from Preston who have come down tonight. All my mates from Preston have come and supported me.
“It means a lot to me to have all their support.”