Wallaby Cooper puts rugby on hold for boxing
Wallaby fly-half Quade Cooper on Monday said he was putting his rugby union career on hold as he prepares to make his debut in the boxing ring early next year.
Cooper’s future has been uncertain after he reportedly reacted furiously to the incentive-based contract offered to him by the Australian Rugby Union after an outburst at the “toxic” environment within the national squad.
The Queensland Reds player said on Monday he had been boxing for months as part of his rehabilitation from knee surgery and was preparing for a fight on February 8 on the undercard of a contest featuring former All Black Sonny Bill Williams.
“As it stands now, I’m still contracted (with the ARU) until the end of December,” Cooper, 24, told a press conference in Brisbane.
“I don’t really have an option to continue with rugby at the moment, so for now I’m just focusing on getting my body right.
“I’m still training with the Reds, I’m still contracted with them. I’m just putting my full focus on getting my body right for the upcoming boxing fight.”
Cooper was hit last month with the biggest fine in Australian rugby history for his outburst on social media in September about the “toxic” environment at the Wallabies and the defensive style of coach Robbie Deans.
The outspoken fly-half also stated that he did not feel he could play for Australia at that time.
He was fined Aus$40,000 ($41,800) plus a further Aus$20,000 suspended for two years. The player was also slapped with a suspended three-match ban for his comments and later apologised for his behaviour.
With his ARU contract about to expire, speculation has mounted that Cooper will switch to the National Rugby League or join a rugby union club in Europe.
Despite getting ready to box, he said his passion was still for rugby.
“Rugby’s the game I love. I was brought up playing rugby union and rugby league. It’s something I hold very close to my heart,” he said.
“My desire for rugby will never fade. I very much love it, but it’s out of my hands at the moment.”
Former All Blacks centre Williams this month confirmed his return to rugby league, agreeing a one-year deal with the Sydney Roosters in Australia’s National Rugby League.
Williams will fight South Africa’s Francois Botha in a heavyweight bout in Brisbane on February 8. Cooper will contest the cruiserweight division on the same card against an as yet unnamed opponent.