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McGuigan defends Flintoff after cricketer-turned-boxer wins debut contest

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 03, 2012

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Barry McGuigan has hit out at the notion that Andrew Flintoff's boxing experience is belittling to the sport.

The former England cricketer recovered from a second-round knockdown to claim a debut points victory against a limited American novice, Richard Dawson, over four two-minute rounds at Manchester Arena on Friday.

The 34-year-old's preparations for the heavyweight bout were charted in a Sky television documentary, causing many in the boxing fraternity to question his motives for stepping into the ring. Those looking to chastise Flintoff were given further ammunition as a crude, scrappy contest predictably developed – not that it seemed too much of a concern for the boisterous 6,000-strong crowd in attendance, who were vocally behind their hero throughout.

McGuigan, the respected former WBA featherweight champion who oversaw the ex-Lancashire all-rounder's painstaking four-and-a-half month training camp, had nothing but high praise for Flintoff, though.

"We never belittled the sport," he said. "We were never in this, in any way, to belittle boxing. Those who said that were idiots.

"We're in this to show how serious he was about it. We never pretended that he was anything other than a novice, but we told everyone he was going to give it everything he's got and I think in the fight he showed that.

"He was knocked down, he got up, showed pluck and courage. His technique went out of the window because he wanted to win so much and had the crowd behind him. But it was honest. Everything about what we've done over the past four and a half months was honest," the Irishman added.

"He's a generous, genuine fellow and I think this was a personal battle for him too – he wanted to show that he had the courage to go through with something like this and I think he won that battle."

Flintoff, who conceded his ring debut "wasn't one for the purists", does not expect to dissuade the doubters and fully understands the degree of ill-feeling around a first bout that may also prove to be his last. "I don't know – they'll probably say I kept dropping my hands," he said when asked how sceptics might have received his gutsy display.

"That's not the reason I did it. I appreciate that people are passionate about sport and people want to protect their sport – I'd be the same with cricket and boxing's no different. 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'm just glad that I've come out of there with a win," he added.

Britain's Tyson Fury moved a step closer to a shot at Vitali Klitschko with a patient victory over American Kevin Johnson in Belfast. The 24-year-old won Saturday's WBC world heavyweight title eliminator by a unanimous points decision, stretching his unbeaten record to 20 fights.

Liverpool's David Price retained his British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles by beating Matt Skelton at Aintree with a second-round knockout on Friday and then said: "If things go well early in 2013, then this time next year I definitely see myself challenging for a world title."

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