Five footballers who went into boxing and combat sports after Marcin Wasilewski's MMA switch including Wayne Bridge

FOOTBALLERS are always encouraged to think about what career path they will take when they hang up their boots.

Some choose to go into coaching, others invest in property. Some decide to knock lumps out of one another.

Former Leicester defender Marcin Wasilewski has become the latest ex-pro to swap shin pads for mouth guards.

The Pole, 40, retired from football last month and is set to enter the world of cage fighting.

A bout with ex-Bolton and Hearts defender Blazej Augustyn is even being lined up.

Here, SunSport details the fighting careers of five other footballers who have turned to the ring.

Rio Ferdinand

England legend Ferdinand's football career brought several glittering moments but his boxing days were over before they really started.

Sponsored by a betting company to step into the ring in September 2017, the former defender was jarringly denied a licence.

The British Boxing Board of Control deemed it 'not beneficial' to allow Ferdinand his second career.

And the Manchester United hero quickly called time on his boxing comeback.

He 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."

Fast forward to October 2020 and Matchroom chief Eddie Hearn has revealed his desire to stage an Old Trafford showdown between Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney.

Katie Taylor

Arguably the world's top female boxer, Taylor is also a former Republic of Ireland international footballer.

The ex-winger starred for Peamount United in the late 2000s yet missed her side's FAI Women's Cup final in 2009 to be crowned Europe's best amateur fighter.

Taylor won 11 caps for her country, scoring twice, before choosing to focus on boxing a decade ago.

Former team-mate Marie Curtin would later tell the Mirror that Taylor 'would have excelled to the highest level' had she stayed in football.

Curtin added: "There were no barriers. Her mindset is so strong and you need leaders like that on your team to win."

And Taylor fondly remembers her playing days, even recalling a crunching tackle that was posted on Twitter a couple of years ago.

Wayne Bridge

Hardly the most aggressive left-back of his day, ex-Chelsea man Bridge showed the fire in his belly with a stint in boxing two years ago.

A Sport Relief clash with Made In Chelsea star Spencer Matthews saw the defender take on a man nine years his junior.

The three-round affair started tightly before Bridge unleashed a barrage of blows.

Matthews hit the deck twice and yet made it to the final bell, at which point Bridge won on points.

The former England international, who has also appeared on I'm A Celeb, retired from football aged 33 in 2014.

His boxing career ended with that one charity fight and he is now said to refer to himself as a 'stay-at-home dad' for the two kids he shares with wife Frankie.

Leon McKenzie

A star forward for the likes of Norwich, Peterborough and Coventry on the pitch, McKenzie would later forge a decent super-middleweight career.

Having hung up his boots in January 2013, he pulled on the gloves just six months later.

A debut win over John Mason at Bethnal Green's historic York Hall set him on a string of nine fights without defeat.

An English title fight with Jahmaine Smyle saw McKenzie suffer a first defeat before he rounded off an 11-fight career with a nine-round loss to Cello Renda.

Most recently, the ex-striker has joined forces with former England cricketer Steve Harmison for a talkSPORT podcast on sports stars' post-retirement plans.

He said: “For a while I was trying to hold on to ‘former professional boxer and footballer’. That was my identity. I’ve accepted my position now.”

Curtis Woodhouse

Few footballers have made the switch to boxing as convincingly as Woodhouse.

Birmingham paid £1million to sign the midfielder from Sheffield United in 2001 before spells with Peterborough, Hull and more.

Disenchanted with the game, he quit aged 26 to spark a long career in the ring.

An assault conviction halted Woodhouse's rise but he soon began teaming both of his sports.

Over 31 fights, he claimed 24 wins and went 12 rounds with Frankie Gavin for the WBO Intercontinental welterweight belt in 2011.

The Driffield Destroyer won English and British level titles before retiring in 2017, and can now be found managing non-league Gainsborough Trinity.

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