Ahead of Anthony Joshua’s fight World title fight with Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday night, September 25, the boxer linked up with the former Manchester United player, Rio Ferdinand for a conversation in a William Hill interview.
In the interview Joshua took the opportunity to grill Rio Ferdinand about Cristiano Ronaldo, to see what he could learn from Ronaldo’s life and work ethic.
Joshua asked Ferdinand: “So who was the best player you played with in your time playing?”
Ferdinand replied: “Obviously Cristiano is just like ridiculous.”
Joshua interrupted: “Even back in the day?”
Rio continued: “When he joined us he was a baby, but his intelligence to grow, his obsession to get better and his desire to be the best was just relentless.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, just a man possessed to get to the top and would do anything to get there.”
Joshua asked: “What can I learn as an athlete with characters trying to get better at what they do?”
Ferdinand answered: “I think you’ve gotta be brave – people never talk about Cristiano’s bravery.
“He was brave to take risks, he comes over to another country. He was brave to remain the person that he was, didn’t change really.
“He became an obsessive with the sport that he chose and then drilled down into details which was building a team around himself.
“I went round his house one time and I walked in and he had about six/seven people siting in his front room. I said to him, ‘Cris, who are all these people man?’
“He was like, ‘That’s my personal masseur, my nutritionist, my doctor, my physio, my chef.’
“He had all these people and back then no-one was doing that. He was a visionary in that sense.”
AJ then said: “That’s what I find interesting, that goes back to being brave then.
“Because when you have that vision, it doesn’t always sit right with everyone, ‘Why’s he got all these bloody extra physio for? He’s got food at the club, why has he got this chef at home?’
“Does it go against the grain? Sometimes you have to go against the grain.”
Ferdinand added: “When I listen to you speak, there’s very big similarities to when I speak to Cristiano.
“He will have like objects in the back of a room. I’ll go, ‘What’s that?’
“He’ll be like, ‘That’s for energy of the room.’
“This guy’s just different. He does mad stuff… just looking for the extra edge.”
Joshua said: “That’s what I find interesting, him joining Man United is a tough ask, it’s a lot of pressure that he’s gonna be under.”
To which Ferdinand responded: “I don’t think he feels pressure you know.
“He expects it now, that’s pressure straight away he’s put on himself. He’s not dodging that question, ‘I’ve come here to win trophies. If I don’t, it’s a disappointment.’
“But it’s different in boxing, you can’t have a little last dance.”
AJ laughed and concluded: “It’s like me having two pints and laying flat on the floor after getting knocked out. There ain’t no last dance.
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“That’s the mental thing with boxing. If you have got your last dance in your mind, you’ve gotta give everything you’ve got.
“What I think when you’re saying all this stuff with Ronaldo, like the chef, in my head it seems like a perfect world, he must have had it nice.
“But it’s because when you face that adversity, you’ve lived in this comfort putting yourself at every advantage that you can. So when you’re in adversity you can pull yourself out at the last minute.
“For me, hearing all that stuff, I’m not looking at it like, ‘He lived a happy life, chef, masseuse.’
“He just knew how tough it was and he wanted to pull himself out of those tough times, so he went the extra mile.
“Being great is having to go that extra mile time and time again.”