Footballers who took up boxing: Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Curtis Woodhouse and more

It's been a mixed bag for the ex-footballers who decided to step into the ring. A few have won major titles, while an ex-Manchester United player couldn't even get a license.

Patrice Evra will make his surprise debut inside a boxing ring next month when he faces YouTuber Adam Saleh at London's O2 Arena on April 30.

The Frenchman - who made over 700 career appearances, including 379 matches for Manchester United - revealed he is excited about fighting and compared it to being 'like a chess game'.

Time will tell as to whether he thinks getting smacked in the mouth compares to a clever castling move, but one thing is for sure he isn't the first footballer to have laced up a pair of gloves.

Planet Sport takes a look at some of the names that preceded Evra into the sport. The scale of success is a bit of a roller coaster, especially when it's in your own kitchen, Mr Rooney.

Curtis Woodhouse

Curtis Woodhouse

Woodhouse had spells at Peterborough, Hull City and left Sheffield United to join Birmingham City for £1million in 2001.

However, at the age of 26, Woodhouse fell out of love with football and retired from the sport to focus on a career in the ring.

Woodhouse even backed himself to win the British title at light welterweight and was that confident, he placed £5,000 on himself at 50/1 with the bookies to achieve it.

In 2014, Woodhouse claimed the biggest victory of his career by winning the Lonsdale belt against Darren Hamilton.

The ex-Blades defender would then retire before returning in the same year, only to lose his title to Willie Limond on points. His overall record is 24 wins and seven defeats (24-7), including a loss to Frankie Gavin on points. He won 13 of his bouts inside the distance by knockout.

Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand

England legend Ferdinand revealed he would climb through the ropes and become a professional boxer in 2018.

The ex-Manchester United ace, who won six Premier League titles and a Champions League, was ambitious enough to target the British title and was backed by the likes of Anthony Joshua and David Haye.

However, his boxing career was over before it started with the British Boxing Board of Control deeming it 'not beneficial' to grant Ferdinand a license.

Ferdinand said: "It is with a heavy heart that I am hanging up my gloves.

"To not be given the chance to demonstrate my ability to the BBBofC through the standard assessment afforded to others is hard to take.

"Having been training four-five times a week since announcing the aim of achieving a professional boxing licence and stepping into the ring, it is with a heavy heart that I am hanging up my gloves on the Betfair #DefendertoContender challenge."

Two years later, Eddie Hearn said he would love to promote a fight between Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney at Old Trafford. When you consider Hearn staged KSI vs Logan Paul, it then makes you wonder if the Matchroom Boxing chief is being serious…

Katie Taylor

Katie Taylor

Taylor is rated as the best female fighter in the world and currently holds all four lightweight world titles.

The "Bray Bomber" was also regarded as an exceptional footballer by former team-mate Marie Curtin who believes Taylor 'would have excelled at the highest level' if she had continued playing the sport.

Taylor represented the Republic of Ireland's national team on 11 occasions, scoring twice before focusing on boxing.

Now a two-division world champion, an Olympic gold-medallist and soon to become the first female fighter to headline Madison Square Garden in its 123-year history, it's safe to say Taylor made the right move.

Wayne Bridge 

Wayne Bridge

Bridge was a decent full back in his day but would often be on the bench as a back-up to Ashley Cole for England and Chelsea. But one thing for sure is that he was no pushover when it came to fighting reality TV star Spencer Matthews in a charity fight for Sport Relief.

Bridge unleashed a barrage of heavy shots and floored the Made in Chelsea man twice on his way to winning on points.

Despite an impressive win, the fight was a one-off for Bridge and he hasn't boxed since. Following stints on ITV's I'm a Celeb and SAS: Who Dares Wins, Bridge refers to himself as a 'stay-at-home dad' to the two children he has with his wife Frankie.

Leon McKenzie

Leon McKenzie

McKenzie was a forward for several league clubs including Norwich City, Coventry City and Crystal Palace. He made nearly 300 appearances and scored over 50 goals in a fifteen year career that ended with non league Corby Town in 2013.

In the same year he quit football, he turned to boxing but that shouldn't be too much of a surprise when you look at his family tree. His father Clinton McKenzie was a former fighter and Leon McKenzie is also the nephew of British boxing legend Duke McKenzie.

Leon McKenzie made his professional debut at super middleweight and won the first two of three bouts in 2013. He was undefeated from his first nine fights, winning eight and drawing one. He won the International Masters super middleweight title in the process.

His performances saw him in line to challenge for the English title, but he was on the wrong end of a split decision verdict to Jahmaine Smyle. In his 11th and final fight, McKenzie suffered a nine-round loss to Cello Renda.

Since then, the former Peterborough striker has worked in media, including a podcast for talkSPORT as well as an ambassador for suicide prevention charity CALM.

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney

Rooney is good friends with former world champion Liam Smith and is often seen at ringside for big domestic clashes in the UK.

While Wazza has never fought as an amateur or a professional, he did have a 'sparring session' with former Man Utd defender Phil Bardsley in his kitchen. It's safe to say the referee would have halted the fight instantly.

"I think it was a Sunday afternoon, and there were a couple of games on," Bardsley recalled.

"We went round a local, watched the football, had a couple of pints, it was all very calm and sociable.

"I dragged my brother and a couple of people that he knew along and went back to his. We were having a drink, having a laugh, he was playing the guitar, and then the next minute these boxing gloves appear and I was thinking 'what's going on here?'

"My brother steps up, has a little go with Wazza, and I was like 'give me them, I'll have a go'.

"He's (Rooney) throwing a few bombs, and he's a big lad and strong. We're exchanging blows, and he just walked into a jab.

"He was out a couple of seconds and we were all panicking. I didn't know what to do, everyone was panic stations!

"He comes around and goes to the sink, I've got a big cut lip, blood everywhere, he's got a bit of blood, we were running it under the sink and we just looked at each other and laughed."

Stick to the football, Wayne.

Tommy Martin

Tommy Martin

Another former footballer who was on the books for Peterborough as well as Fulham.

Martin was offered a goalkeeping scholarship deal but declined the offer after admitting he preferred punching people rather than footballs.

In a 14-fight, four-year career, Martin won 13 of them and became the youngest English champion at the time aged 20.

In his following fight in 2015, Martin climbed up from the floor to stop Terry Needham and then claimed the WBA Continental super lightweight title.

Martin would fall short in his next challenge to become Commonwealth champion and lost his unbeaten record to good friend John Wayne Hibbert.

In 2016, he was forced to retire from the sport on medical grounds after he suffered a bleed on the brain during his fight against Hibbert. The BBBofC revealed they would never allow him to fight again.

Read more: Jones, Wilder, Pacquiao and more: Six boxers who competed in other sports

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