Boxing: Freddie gets job done to leave fans bowled over
It was never going to be pretty. Those who saw him play cricket could vouch for that. But what you always get with Freddie Flintoff is commitment, enthusiasm and heart.
On his professional boxing debut, Flintoff enthralled a packed house, who enjoyed every minute of what was in truth no better than a cab-rank fight.
Richard Dawson proved a durable foe and even had Flintoff over with a flash knockdown in the second round. It was a sharp lesson the American did not have a clue how to harvest.
Flintoff simply dusted himself down and continued with the agricultural barrage.
A respectable gathering of friends from the world of cricket and television – Darren Gough, Rob Key, Steve Harmison, Jack Whitehall and John Bishop – squeezed in at ringside wondering what their chum was doing putting himself through this torment.
At 10.50 Dawson was welcomed into the ring. A year ago he was reflecting on a three-month spell in a Oklahoma slammer convicted of aggravated assault and battery. He looked well prepared for his night's work.
Flintoff bounced through the ropes to the sound of Oasis' 'Roll With It'. An ashen face beaded with sweat betrayed his hyped state. He advanced behind a stiff jab and chopping right, catching Dawson with a swathe of lusty blows.
Flintoff walked onto a counter early in the second and received a standing count. It was more his own momentum that sent him tumbling rather than the weight of shot by Dawson.
On his return to the corner he complained bitterly to trainer Shane McGuigan, who told him to set aside his disappointment and focus. In his eagerness to dispatch his man, Flintoff was often falling into punches rather than planting his feet as boxing orthodoxy demands.
The crowd loved him for it. Four and half months of training went out of the window when the bell went, all those disciplines carefully drilled by the McGuigan clan evaporating in the heat of battle.
Freddie was all hustle and bustle. The clean shot was never going to come. Still he was the busier man and exploded into the fourth landing with a roundhouse right.
Over came that big right again. In the corner Shane implored him to swing from below. It was too late for that. He is a long way from landing an uppercut.
It ended in a blur of meshed flesh tangled on the ropes, Dawson trying to escape the flailing windmill crowding him out.
Of course he got the decision, by a point. And yes, down he went on one knee a la Lord's after an Ashes victory. "Freddie, Freddie" yelled the crowd.
It wasn't pretty. But the job had been done.
Elsewhere, Ireland's boxers recorded two wins from two at the 2012 AIBA World Youth Championships in Yerevan, Kurt Walker and John Joe McDonagh advancing in the Armenian capital. (© Independent News Service)