Steady Freddie getting ready to rumble

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Andrew_Flintoff AFP Former England cricketer Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff dangles from a rope outside Wembley Stadium after one of his world record attempts. He now plans to get into the boxing ring.

It’s one thing for sports stars to leave the stage at the right time, but it seems to be another tale altogether for them to know what to do with themselves in limbo.

Some slip into a commentary box, and add considerable wealth to one’s viewing. The Proteas’ tour to England was a feast of high-quality Test cricket, but it was made even more special by Sky’s all-star cast in the commentary box.

The likes of Mike Atherton, David Gower and Nasser Hussain have now surpassed the lot in Australia, not least because they are able to appreciate the achievements of the opposition with almost as much enthusiasm as the exploits of their own players.

Their expert analyses, coupled with the semi-senile Geoffrey Boycott, the slow, soulful Michael Holding and the instantly likeable David “Bumble” Lloyd, made for compelling listening. That Shaun Pollock fitted in so seamlessly was also great to see.

But not all ex-players can be pundits, and some pop up in the unlikeliest of places, from dancing for their supper to cooking for the camera.

The news this week that Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff has got bored with just being a darts commentator (yes, they take the pub pastime that seriously in Blighty) and decided to lace up the gloves initially sounded like one of those belated April Fool’s jokes.

But, the former cricket all-rounder may well end up dancing with some scars. He is dead set on going on an intense regime, resisting the pull of Yorkshire puddings and Lancashire hotpots for a few months, and then stepping into the ring against a pro who would like nothing more than to beat some sense into him.

There must be something in the Manchester air, because Flintoff’s pal, and former world champion, Ricky Hatton, has also decided to do an about-turn on his own retirement.

Despite everything that the tenacious Hatton accomplished, the enduring image of him lying motionless in the middle of the ring, having been obliterated by a Manny Pacquiao hurricane in Las Vegas, is a hard one to shake.

During an interview with Corrie Sanders this week, the former heavyweight slugger expressed his gratitude that he was still healthy after 46 potentially deadly dances in the ring.

The list of boxers who went on for too long is lengthy and gruesome.

And yet, the smell of leather, and the taste of blood and teeth, has proved irresistible to Hatton. While Flintoff may not quite grasp what he is letting himself in for, Hatton knows only too well the damage that can be meted out inside the “squared circle”.

While all that was going on, Oscar Pistorius was busy throwing his own, verbal punches this week after missing out on the gold medal in the 200m.

It’s hard to keep up with the various classifications in the Paralympics, but Oscar’s reaction to being pipped at the post for the first time in nine years was a reminder of just how seriously these athletes take an event that is almost an afterthought to many others.

Perhaps the Paralympic Games should be allowed to stand alone, a year apart from the Olympics, so that they can be given their due respect.

The Olympics is dubbed the “greatest show on earth”, and perhaps the Paralympics should be slugged the bravest show on earth.

In my humble opinion, the achievements of disabled athletes are far more remarkable than the exploits of Bolt, Farah and the rest. They show what the human body can still achieve, even in adversity.

They shouldn’t be pitied. They should be celebrated. – Sunday Tribune

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