Tag Archives: fighting

Stoke, Norwich and Newcastle must hold their nerve to stay in the Premier League – Martin Keown

The bootroom: Survival It's all about nerve now… and Stoke, Norwich and Newcastle must keep theirs

By
Martin Keown

PUBLISHED:

21:30 GMT, 5 April 2013

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UPDATED:

22:57 GMT, 5 April 2013

Taking it easy: Jocky Wilson relaxes away from the pressures of the oche

Taking it easy: Jocky Wilson relaxes away from the pressures of the oche

The late, great darts legend Jocky Wilson used to recount how pressure could reach out and grab him by the throat. Once that happened, he could do nothing.

Stoke, Norwich and Newcastle must make sure that the same thing doesn’t happen to them this weekend.

They are the teams in 13th, 14th and 15th places in the Barclays Premier League, just a few points above the drop zone and all with very winnable home games this weekend.

Stoke, with one win in 12, are at home to Aston Villa. Norwich have won one in 14 and face out-of-sorts Swansea. Newcastle, after returning from Lisbon, hope a fourth successive home win — against Fulham — can pull them clear of danger.

It’s easy to look at those sides and say they’ll be fine but why should they be The bottom of the table is as close as I can remember and if you are one of those teams, you will be nervous.

All these teams are probably a win away from safety. If you can put daylight between you and the bottom three quickly, it’s fine. If you don’t, that win you need becomes harder to come by.

This weekend, Stoke manager Tony Pulis, Chris Hughton at Norwich and Alan Pardew at Newcastle will have pencilled in must-win matches. Of their respective opponents, Villa are deep in trouble, Swansea have lost three in a row while Fulham are safe and have little to play for.

Where it went wrong

Such is Villa’s and Wigan’s fighting spirit that they are pulling the teams above them into the relegation battle. They worried Sunderland so much that they sacked Martin O’Neill. But all the teams up to and including Southampton will be a bit nervous.

Stoke, more than anyone, might have the outcome of the relegation battle in their hands. After Villa, they play Norwich, QPR, Sunderland and Southampton before the end of the season. Last week against Everton they were poor, Peter Crouch and Cameron Jerome especially.

Out of sorts: Stoke lost at Everton last weekend (above), while Newcastle were thumped by Manchester City (below left) and Norwich were beaten by Wigan (below right)

Out of sorts: Stoke lost at Everton last weekend (above), while Newcastle were thumped by Manchester City (below left) and Norwich were beaten by Wigan (below right)

Out of sorts: Stoke lost at Everton last weekend (above), while Newcastle were thumped by Manchester City (below left) and Norwich were beaten by Wigan (below right)

Out of sorts: Stoke lost at Everton last weekend (above), while Newcastle were thumped by Manchester City (below left) and Norwich were beaten by Wigan (below right)

It doesn’t look like Stoke’s players are responding to Pulis as much as they used to and they have failed to evolve as a team. Their passing and style should be better after so many years in the Premier League. And there is the added uncertainty over Pulis’s future, which cannot be helping the players. I didn’t like hearing him talk this week about how many points will be needed to stay up. The focus should be on improving the team, not counting the points and fixtures.

We did that when I was relegated with Aston Villa and it cost us. You must not become obsessed with each and every scenario.

But Pulis is a fighter and has done remarkably well at that club overall. I’m confident he’ll keep them up, even if they have regressed this season.

Score

Norwich hardly concede but they hardly score either. And after losing at Wigan last weekend, the pressure is on a little bit. When you lose to a team below you, it can give you the impression that they are better than you. It will not have inspired confidence. Three wins on the trot against Swansea will give them some belief that they can claim three vital points.

For Stoke and Norwich, staying up is their main aim. Anything after that is a bonus. For Newcastle it is slightly different, although people are realising now just how much they overachieved last season.
The Europa League has not helped them but they haven’t won a trophy for 44 years so they need to take it seriously. It’s just vital that their league form doesn’t dip any more or the situation will snowball.

Table

Boot room

Boot room

Bernard Hopkins wins the IBF light-heavyweight title against Tavoris Cloud

Record-breaking Hopkins defies odds to win world title at age of 48

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

10:19 GMT, 10 March 2013

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UPDATED:

10:53 GMT, 10 March 2013

Bernard Hopkins broke his own record again by becoming the oldest man to win a world title after beating Tavoris Cloud on points to claim the IBF light-heavyweight crown.

Hopkins (53-6-2, 32KO wins) benefited when Cloud was cut over his left eye in the sixth round, which the referee ruled an accidental clash of heads but replays showed the gnarled veteran opening up the wound with a left hook.

Record: Bernard Hopkins (left) connects with a punch on Tavoris Cloud during their IBF light heavyweight fight

Record: Bernard Hopkins (left) connects with a punch on Tavoris Cloud during their IBF light heavyweight fight

Fighting spirit: Bernard Hopkins poses for a photo after claiming the title at the grand old age of 48

Fighting spirit: Bernard Hopkins poses for a photo after claiming the title at the grand old age of 48

The 48-year-old, who has been linked
with a bout against Wales' Nathan Cleverly, took control against his
fellow American thereafter and was victorious by scores of 117-111,
116-112, 116-112 to the delight of fans in the Barclays Center, New
York.

The former undisputed middleweight champion first became the oldest boxer to hold a portion of the world title when he defeated Canada's Jean Pascal for the WBC light-heavyweight championship in May 2011.

Back-foot: Hopkins (left) tries to fend off a punch from Tavoris Cloud during the first round with the

Back-foot: Hopkins (left) tries to fend off a punch from Tavoris Cloud during the first round with the

Endurance: An exchange of blows between Cloud (left) and an upright Hopkins

Endurance: An exchange of blows between Cloud (left) and an upright Hopkins

He was comfortably beaten by Chad Dawson
in April last year – leading many to speculate his retirement – but his
latest victory has once more galvanised his career.

Bobbing and weaving: Cloud (right) tries to avoid another big swing from Hopkins

Bobbing and weaving: Cloud (right) tries to avoid another big swing from Hopkins

Conversing: Hopkins (right) and Cloud give each other their opinions just after the enthralling fight

Conversing: Hopkins (right) and Cloud give each other their opinions just after the enthralling fight

Loving life: The legendary boxing promoter Don King watching on with glee at the result

Loving life: The legendary boxing promoter Don King watching on with glee at the result

Nigel Adkins sacking by Southampton and replacement with Mauricio Pochettino is lunacy

Adkins sacking is lunacy but Saints must heed warning from Chelsea fans' abuse

By
James Coney, Money Mail Editor

PUBLISHED:

15:56 GMT, 18 January 2013

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UPDATED:

17:43 GMT, 18 January 2013

You’d find it hard to find one
football fan, let alone any who support Southampton, who does not
believe the sacking of Nigel Adkins is complete madness.

Saints
had a terrible first few games back in the top flight. But even though
they lost eight in 10 matches there were few fans who lost confidence Adkins would get the team out of trouble.

And
the faith was rewarded. Saints have lost two in just 12 games,
including draws at Chelsea and Stoke and at home to Arsenal.

Ruthless: Nigel Adkins was sacked by Southampton despite consecutive promotions and improved form

Ruthless: Nigel Adkins was sacked by Southampton despite consecutive promotions and improved form

Saint marching in: Former Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino is the shock appointment at St Mary's

Saint marching in: Former Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino is the shock appointment at St Mary's

Even though the side are just above the relegation places, there are few who don’t believe the only way is up.

The players clearly respect Adkins and the fans adore him.

Yet
club chairman Nicola Cortese has sacked the manager of a team, who just
two days drew, and almost beat, the champions of Europe.

He
has been replaced with a man few will have heard of, and by all
accounts speaks little English. His managerial career hardly sparkles –
getting Espanyol a couple of mid-table finishes before being sacked when
they were at the foot of La Liga.

Fighting spirit: Rickie Lambert (second left) helped the Saints hold Chelsea to a 2-2 draw just two days ago

Fighting spirit: Rickie Lambert (second left) helped the Saints hold Chelsea to a 2-2 draw just two days ago

Fighting spirit: Rickie Lambert (second left) helped the Saints hold Chelsea to a 2-2 draw just two days ago

FRANTIC FRIDAY

Read all the news of an unbelievable day on the south coast in MailOnline:

Southampton SACK Adkins and replace him with Pochettino just two days after drawing away at European champions Chelsea

Meet the man Southampton hope will keep them up… Pochettino unveiled but he can't speak English and admits he has been researching the Saints 'for several weeks'!

From sinner to Saint: Watch Southampton boss Pochettino foul Owen in the box

But
what is going through the head of every Saints fan will be this: Please
don’t let this be the start of another managerial merry-go-round.

Saints had 12 managers in eight years
before being relegated. Many of these were hopeless, some went on to
bigger clubs.

But sacking one who had gained two promotions in
consecutive seasons and had bought and built a talented team which
players bright attractive football seems like lunacy.

I
was at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night. Three times the travelling
support sung Adkins’ name – even when the side were trailing 2-0 at half
time.

By contrast I
was struck by the horrible atmosphere among the Chelsea fans who despise
the sacking of their former manager. The abuse and animosity is having a
detrimental effect on the team’s home performances.

It’s a warning Saints supporters should heed.

I suspect there will now be the same level of anger towards the chairman by the Saints fans.
And
if that starts affecting performances then a side which was slowly
climbing the table could quickly fall back in to trouble.

First day: Pochettino gives his first press conference on Friday, ahead of Saints' game with Everton on Monday

First day: Pochettino gives his first press conference on Friday, ahead of Saints' game with Everton on Monday

Australian Open 2013: Jamie Baker loses to Lukas Rosol in first round

Baker's Aussie dream is over after Brit falls to Nadal's Wimbledon conqueror Rosol

By
Mike Dickson

PUBLISHED:

07:45 GMT, 15 January 2013

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UPDATED:

10:53 GMT, 15 January 2013

Jamie Baker was left to rue some missed opportunities as he fell in the first round of the Australian Open to the man who famously knocked Rafael Nadal out at Wimbledon last year.

Playing on a far outside court in the enormous shadow of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the 26-year-old Scot led in both the first and second sets before he became overpowered by the athletic figure of Czech Lukas Rosol 7-6, 7-5, 6-2 in a shade over two hours.

Having typically battled hard to make it through the qualifying event it was a disappointing outcome for the British No 2 but winning those three preliminary matches still makes it a decent start to the season for the world No 246.

Over and out: Jamie Baker lost at the first hurdle to Lukas Rosol at the Australian Open

Over and out: Jamie Baker lost at the first hurdle to Lukas Rosol at the Australian Open

Against 75th ranked Rosol, who played like Godzilla back in June to beat the stricken Nadal in five sets, he had to rely on his counterpunching skills from the back of the court but they served him well early on as his opponent started to get frustrated.

Baker broke for 6-5 in the opener when he played a clever chip-and-charge manoeuvre that brought an error from Rosol. Trying to serve it out, however, he allowed three break points against him and on the last one hit a forehand into the net.

The Briton, an off season training partner of Andy Murray in Miami, was always behind in the tiebreaker as Rosol threw caution to the wind and hit out to take it 7-5, having built up a 6-3 lead.

Cruise control: Rosol knocked Rafael Nadal out at Wimbledon and was in no mood to be shocked himself

Cruise control: Rosol knocked Rafael Nadal out at Wimbledon and was in no mood to be shocked himself

The second set was also a story of Baker not being able to capitalise on his lead as he went ahead 4-1 and 5-3 and again was unable to close it out. Rosol reeled off four games and Baker’s fighting spirit was sapped, with daylight between them in the third.

Consolation for the Scot is the 18,000 first-round loser’s money and a boost from his wins last week.

Having fought more than his fair share of injuries he is at least heading in the right direction.

Jack Wilshere welcomes Christmas break after Arsenal win at Wigan

Wilshere looking forward to Christmas break after hailing Arsenal's win at Wigan

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UPDATED:

14:11 GMT, 23 December 2012

Jack Wilshere hailed Arsenal's fighting spirit after the Gunners ground out a victory over Wigan that lifted them back into the Champions League places.

The Gunners had been at their free-flowing best in thumping Reading 5-2 on Monday but had to show a different side to their game in Saturday's 1-0 win at the DW Stadium.

The Latics more than matched their opponents on a sodden pitch but Arsenal made it three Barclays Premier League wins in a row thanks to Mikel Arteta's hotly-disputed penalty.

Festive cheer: Jack Wilshere, alongside Theo Walcott, was delighted with Arsenal's victory at Wigan

Festive cheer: Jack Wilshere, alongside Theo Walcott, was delighted with Arsenal's victory at Wigan

Arsene Wenger's side have been criticised in the past for slipping up in such games, and Wilshere said: “We got the points and we showed a different side to our game.

'It's a tough place to come to, Wigan, and they play a strange formation compared to other teams in England. They caused us some problems but we dealt well with it.

'It was a big adjustment with the pitch and the conditions but we showed great character. We know we can come to places like this and dig out results and we have to keep doing that.

'All the big teams when they come here, maybe they don't play very well but they seem to get results and we've done that.'

It has been an excellent week for Arsenal with two victories and five players signing new long-term contracts, including Wilshere.

The 20-year-old has been in very good form since returning to action in October following more than a year out with an ankle injury.

Art attack: Mikel Arteta celebrates Arsenal's winner after scoring from the penalty spot at the DW Stadium

Art attack: Mikel Arteta celebrates Arsenal's winner after scoring from the penalty spot at the DW Stadium

He said: 'It was nice to sign the new contract and I'm thankful for all the support the club have given me.

'This is a great club, everyone can see that, and for me it's like home. My friends and family are down the road, I've grown up at this club so I really feel like part of the family.

'I think I've shown commitment to the club and they've shown it to me so I think we have a good thing going on.'

The Gunners are now in the unusual position of having a week until their next game after the scheduled Boxing Day clash against West Ham was postponed because of a threatened tube strike.

They will aim to make it four league victories in a row next Saturday against Newcastle, who gained a much-needed win over QPR to pull away from the bottom three.

Wilshere said: 'I think this will be one of my first and only Christmases at home. It's going to be quite nice to have a day with the family and then go again at the weekend.

'It's a tough game against Newcastle. They need the points, they're not in a good run of form and they'll want to prove something but we want to keep this momentum going.

'At times it's been tough this season but it seems we've got a good thing going on and we have to keep it going and end the year on a high.'

Hugo Lloris adapting to Premier League with Tottenam

Lloris reveals he's settling in at Spurs… now that he's AVB's No 1!

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UPDATED:

09:14 GMT, 21 December 2012

Main man: Hugo Lloris

Main man: Hugo Lloris

Hugo Lloris has admitted he has had to adapt to the English game after joining Tottenham from Lyon in August.

The Frenchman, who will face his former side in the last 32 of the Europa League, signed for 12million but initially struggled to displace Brad Friedel as Andre Villas-Boas’ No 1.

But Lloris is confident he is now up to speed with the Premier League.

‘Football is universal,’ he told the Times. ‘There are certain characteristics, such as crosses, high balls, duels on the pitch and fighting spirit which are part of the English football. Here it is faster, with higher intensity.

‘Being a keeper isn’t just about being a player,’ he said. ‘It’s about a mindset, being rigorous in your work, brave. I don’t like to wait for the game to come to me, to have it imposed on me. I like to attack the ball, to play quite high up the pitch and to close the attacking players down where possible.’

Lloris credited Lyon with developing his career but admitted he was ready to leave for a new challenge.

‘I needed to move on to the next stage in my career,’ he added. ‘Coming to Tottenham was a great opportunity for me. During my time at Lyons I developed as a man and a sportsman into what I am today.’

Yaya Toure beats Didier Drogba to African Footballer of the Year award 2012

City star Yaya pips Drogba to defend African Footballer of the Year title

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UPDATED:

23:56 GMT, 20 December 2012

Manchester City midfield powerhouse Yaya Toure has beaten his Ivorian compatriot Didier Drogba to be crowned African Footballer of the Year for a second time running.

The 29-year-old helped his country reach the African Cup of Nations final and was one of the key men as Roberto Mancini's side won the Barclays Premier League in May.

Barcelona midfielder Alex Song, who left Arsenal in the summer, finished third as the award was made at the African Football gala in Accra, Ghana.

Thank you: Yaya Toure accepts his award while Didier Drogba (right) looks on, before the pair embrace (below)

Thank you: Yaya Toure accepts his award while Didier Drogba (right) looks on, before the pair embrace (below)

Congratulations: Drogba and Toure have a cuddle

Congratulations: Drogba and Toure have a cuddle

Although Toure has not quite been able to replicate his form this season, his incredible power and tenacity helped City dominate games last term.

He grabbed six goals in the top flight including two in the penultimate match against Newcastle – which City won 2-0 and gave them a fighting chance of snatching the title from rivals Manchester United on the final day.

Presentation: Drogba and Toure hold large certificates of their achievements

Presentation: Drogba and Toure hold large certificates of their achievements

The Ivory Coast lost to Zambia in the final of the African Cup of Nation in a penalty shoot-out, but Toure had been substituted by that point.

Zambia were rewarded for their success by being named African Team of the Year and their boss, Herve Renard, was Coach of the Year.

Toure joined Senegalese forward El-Hadji
Diouf on two victories, although it is unlikely he will be able to
eclipse Cameroonian ex-Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o, who picked up the
title four times.

Fair play: Zambia coach Herve Renard helped his side shock the Ivory Coast in the African Cup of Nations

Fair play: Zambia coach Herve Renard helped his side shock the Ivory Coast in the African Cup of Nations

Essential: Toure bagged both goals as City saw off Newcastle in the season's penultimate game

Essential: Toure bagged both goals as City saw off Newcastle in the season's penultimate game

Drogba, 34, was also in with a strong chance of winning the award because of his influence on Chelsea's successful pursuit of the Champions League title.

When the going got tough in Europe, the striker was there to produce for his side.

With the Blues needing a result in their final group game against Valencia to qualify, Drogba struck twice and was at his dominating best, despite indifferent domestic form, to get Andre Villas-Boas's team through.

After the Portuguese manager was sacked, Drogba gave his replacement Roberto Di Matteo a huge boost in his third game in charge.

Accra: Drogba and Toure travelled to Ghana to attend the award ceremony

Accra: Drogba and Toure travelled to Ghana to attend the award ceremony

Decisive: Didier Drogba wheels away after saving Chelsea's skin with a superb header against Bayern Munich

Decisive: Didier Drogba wheels away after saving Chelsea's skin with a superb header against Bayern Munich

He opened the scoring and turned in another superb display as Chelsea came back from a first-leg defeat to rout Napoli before grabbing another crucial goal against Barcelona in the semi-final.

Drogba saved the best for last – equalising against Bayern Munich in the dying moments with a bullet header, then converting the deciding penalty in the shoot-out.

After his key contribution Drogba left the club on a free transfer, moving to Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua.

Big move: Alex Song (second left) upped sticks to Barcelona after a strong year with Arsenal

Big move: Alex Song (second left) upped sticks to Barcelona after a strong year with Arsenal

Song, meanwhile, came into his own under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

The
25-year-old curbed previous indiscipline and became a creative force
going forward – his incisive passes to Robin van Persie were a key combination in the
Gunners' attack.

Barcelona picked him up for 16million in the summer and he has featured 14 times for the Spanish giants since.

Liverpool beat Borussia Dortmund in NextGen series

Liverpool and Villa earn NextGen wins but more Euro woe for City who stumble in Paris

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UPDATED:

20:39 GMT, 28 November 2012

Liverpool gave themselves a fighting chance of qualifying for the next stage of the NextGen tournament after a resounding 3-0 defeat of Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night.

Two goals in the opening five minutes from Conor Coady gave Liverpool the solid foundation to dominate the German side at St Helens' Langtree Park.

The 19-year-old headed home a cross at the back post before adding a well-struck penalty following a foul on young striker Adam Morgan.

Young star: Liverpool's Conor Coady bagged a brace as they beat Borussia Dortmund

Young star: Liverpool's Conor Coady bagged a brace as they beat Borussia Dortmund

Liverpool had plenty of chances with Irish full-back Ryan McLaughlin also impressing with his marauding runs forward.

The lively Morgan added a third with 12 minutes to go to ensure new coach Alex Inglethorpe signalled his first game with a victory.

NEXTGEN SERIES

Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are also taking part in the competition. For a full review of the groups click here

Liverpool can ensure a place in the next round with a win over Inter Milan in their final group game in January.

Meanwhile, Celtic lost 1-0 to PSV Eindhoven. A late goal from Joshua Brenet was enough to claim victory for PSV Eindhoven and condemn Celtic to bottom spot in their NextGen group.

In Group 4, Aston Villa thrashed the already qualified Sporting Lisbon to give themselves hope of progress heading into the final match.

Janoi Donacien got the ball rolling inside 10 minutes, while a brace each from Michael Drennan and Graham Burke completed the rout.

City, though, who lost 2-1 at Paris St Germain, are out with Juventus taking the second place in the knockout stage ahead of the English side.

Andrew Flintoff says he feels like a boxer

EXCLUSIVE: Flintoff: When I fill in those forms that ask for your occupation, I now say 'boxer'

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UPDATED:

22:46 GMT, 27 November 2012

Andrew Flintoff owns a motorbike and has tattoos, so difficult conversations with his mother are nothing new.

But discussing his latest career move was a little more awkward. 'It was a few months ago and we were watching television when some boxing came on,' he says.

'I was thinking, “How am I going to tell her that I'm going to start fighting” Then she starts saying, “I'm glad you played cricket and didn't go for boxing”'. Oh god.

Hitting hard: Andrew Flintoff will fight Richard Dawson on Friday evening

Hitting hard: Andrew Flintoff will fight Richard Dawson on Friday evening

'I just went for it: “Mum, I have something to tell you”. I'm not sure she was too pleased – or is too pleased. I guess it's one thing watching your son go out to play cricket at Lord's in his whites, and another to watch him have a fight.'

Mrs Flintoff is fast running out of time to get used to the idea.

On Friday, at Manchester Arena, her son will step into a ring with Richard Dawson, once a street-fighting gang member from Oklahoma and now a professional heavyweight with two wins in his first two fights.

Trim: A slimline Andrew Flintoff is ready for his first professional boxing fight

Trim: A slimline Andrew Flintoff is ready for his first professional boxing fight

'It's bizarre where life takes you,' says Flintoff, sipping black coffee in a London bar.

The former England cricket captain hasn't had a drop of alcohol for four months.

His upper lip, as it often has been since he started mixing with Barry McGuigan and his son Shane, is looking a little fleshy. His 34-year-old body isn't.

Flintoff weighs roughly 15-and-a-half stone, about four less than when he started making himself sick after meals at cricket grounds around the world.

That was one of the revelations from the first part of his most recent, most compelling documentary, Flintoff: From Lord's to The Ring.

Another was that occasionally he was bullied at school and this venture is, in part, an attempt to gain closure.

There was also talk about finding it difficult to fill the void that appears when the structure and purpose of professional sport goes.

Flintoff says: 'I'm happy with the documentary. I had an idea of what I wanted it to do and I think it has done.

'But people should know, I decided first that I wanted to do the boxing, to get back into professional sport, and then we decided to make a documentary.'

The sentence has almost become a reflex against the critics.

Frank Maloney, a promoter, says Flintoff is making boxing a 'laughing stock' and called the fight a 'publicity stunt'.

He cited James Cracknell's charity fight in 2007 that left the two-time Olympic gold medal-winning rower unconscious.

'I just went for it: “Mum, I have
something to tell you”. I'm not sure she was too pleased. It's one thing watching your son go out to play cricket and another to watch him have a fight.'

– Andrew Flintoff

Heavyweight David Price called the whole thing 'a joke'.

'It hasn't felt like a joke,' Flintoff says. '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.'

He looks tired from the day's training. Each week he has been doing 12 sessions, most lasting two hours, with Shane McGuigan.

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 headguards.

'That was a big step,' he says. 'You feel sharper but also more vulnerable. You obviously feel the punches more. But it was the next step. It's all a process.

'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.

Real deal: Flintoff (right) says he is serious about professional boxing, despite David Price (left) describing his fight as a 'joke'

Real deal: Flintoff (right) says he is serious about professional boxing, despite David Price (left) describing his fight as a 'joke'

'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 talks of staying up late as a child to watch big fights broadcast from America, especially if they involved Mike Tyson.

'I used to love watching Tyson,' he says. 'I remember staying up until the middle of the night for the first Frank Bruno-Tyson fight and, oh my god! Frank had rocked him, the commentator's telling him to get stuck in.

'He came so close. He almost took him and then Tyson did what he does.' Tyson dropped into Flintoff's gym during a recent visit to the UK.

So did Sugar Ray Leonard. 'I couldn't believe it,' Flintoff says. 'I had Sugar Ray talking about my footwork and Tyson saying stuff about the mental side.

'He used to be so nervous before a fight and had to control that. I was as nervous meeting Tyson as I was meeting Ian Botham for the first time.

Lord of the ring: Flintoff (centre) with his father and son training team Barry (left) and Shane (right) McGuigan

Lord of the ring: Flintoff (centre) with his father and son training team Barry (left) and Shane (right) McGuigan

'I used to love British fighters like Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Steve Collins, Ricky Hatton. I spent time with Collins in Vegas a few years ago.

'He spoke about his battles with Eubank. I was sitting listening to him about how Eubank was such a strong puncher, and about the time he got hypnotised before fighting him.

'It was fascinating – I love those stories.'

Quite how this chapter in Flintoff 's career will end is anyone's guess.

He won't talk about his strengths or weaknesses but Barry McGuigan thinks he 'could floor a mule' with his right hand.

The rumour is that Flintoff hasn't even been put down in sparring, though he has flattened a few himself.

'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.'

– Andrew Flintoff

'It has been getting harder,' he says. 'It's tough, but I love the feeling that I'm improving.'

He laughs about the scene in the first part of the documentary when he stops to see if an early sparring partner is OK after a big head shot.

'This is the hurt business,' a less-than-impressed Barry McGuigan says to camera.

'I've developed a bit more spite since then,' Flintoff says. 'You'll see. It's feeling a bit more natural. I feel like a boxer.

'It's funny, when you go on planes and you fill in those forms that ask for your occupation – I put that I'm a boxer now.'

His mother might have to get used to it.

Flintoff: From Lord's To The Ring continues on Thursday at 9pm on Sky 1. The fight will be shown live on Boxnation (SkyCh 437, Virgin Ch 546) on Friday night.

Olympic taekwondo stars launch talent programme

Britain's Olympic taekwondo stars launch hunt for medal winners of the future

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UPDATED:

00:01 GMT, 16 November 2012

Great Britain’s taekwondo Olympic stars Jade Jones, Lutalo Muhammad and Sarah Stevenson have launched the first talent identification programme following the success of London Olympics.

In the build-up to the Rio Games in 2016 — and in conjunction with UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport — GB Taekwondo has launched Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil, a nationwide talent identification programme.

The programme is aimed at high achieving 16 to 26-year-old male and female combat athletes from all kick-based martial arts who believe they are capable of transferring to Olympic Taekwondo (WTF style) and making an impact on the medal table in 2016.

Talent search: The road to Rio has begun for taekwondo stars

Talent search: The road to Rio has begun for taekwondo stars

The sport has enjoyed an increased profile after the Games with one gold and one bronze medal achieved, which added to the bronze won four years ago in Beijing, but GB Taekwondo and the UK Talent Team remain convinced that there are athletes not currently involved in Olympic Taekwondo (WTF) who are capable of challenging for positions in the national team.

Recent rule changes increasing points scored for kicks to the head will further enhance the opportunity for talent transfer.

GB Taekwondo performance director Gary Hall said: ‘The original Fighting Chance talent identification campaign in 2009 was very successful for athletes to complement the talented juniors we were already developing.

‘The new Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil campaign should help us build on the successes we have had so far and reach wider audiences. The success we achieved in London was incredible but we are not resting on our laurels, there is more talent out there to discover.’

Since 2007, the UK Talent Team has worked in partnership with 20 Olympic and Paralympic sports and over 100 World Class coaches; run seven National athlete recruitment campaigns, and assessed over 7,000 athletes. These projects have resulted in over 100 athletes selected by sports into the World Class system with 293 international appearances made and a total of 102 international medals won.

Golden girl: Jade Jones celebrates her success at the London Olympics

Golden girl: Jade Jones celebrates her success at the London Olympics

Twelve identified athletes from the campaigns represented Team GB at the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, including rower Helen Glover, who was part of the crew which won Team GB’s first gold medal and Taekwondo player Lutalo Muhammad, who won Olympic bronze.

Ian Yates from the UK Talent Team said, ‘The London 2012 Games saw great success for British athletes and there was notable impact on the medals won from talent ID athletes who have come through our campaigns including an Olympic gold medal for Rower Helen Glover.

‘The talent initiatives have a proven track record in discovering untapped sporting potential and we are now focussing on continuing to impact on British success through to Rio in 2016. It is fantastic that Taekwondo will be involved in our first initiative post London 2012.’

Jade Jones shot to fame this summer by winning Olympic gold in the women’s -57kg Taekwondo. Jones, who is also the current world number one, began taekwondo at a young age and now trains at the GB Taekwondo Olympic headquarters in Manchester. Jade made the switch from ITF Taekwondo five years ago.

She said: ‘I’ve had a lot of feedback since the summer’s Olympic Games that more and more people are looking to get into WTF Taekwondo,’ she said.

‘It is a fantastic sport and certainly has attributes which appeal to other combat athletes. My experience at London 2012 was incredible and I’m so happy that the sport is receiving more interest but I want to see this grow and continue in the lead up to 2016. Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil is a great programme to help that happen.’

Action stations: Jones (right) hopes to identify talent for Rio in 2016

Action stations: Jones (right) hopes to identify talent for Rio in 2016

Lutalo Muhammad came through the Talent 2012 Fighting Chance scheme before winning bronze in this year’s Olympic Games and commented on the campaign launch: ‘It is exciting to see the increase in popularity that Taekwondo has gained since our success this summer. London was an incredible experience for me and I would encourage others who think they could transfer their skills to WTF Taekwondo to apply for Fighting Chance as they too could experience the thrill of an Olympic Games in 2016.’

Sarah Stevenson won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games and became the first ever British athlete to medal in the sport of Taekwondo at an Olympic Games.

The 29-year-old from Doncaster said: ‘The Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil programme is a fantastic way to bring new talent to our sport. We had great success as a team in London and it would be fantastic to see that grow and develop on the road to Rio.’

The 2009 Fighting Chance campaign saw over 1,000 applicants from a variety of other combat sports, including ITF Taekwondo, kickboxing, karate, muai thai and others.

The application process is online and further information can be found at: www.uksport.gov.uk/talent, with the application process closing on Monday 14 January 2013.