Wallaby Cooper puts rugby on hold for boxing
BRISBANE, Australia (AFP) –
Wallaby fly-half Quade Cooper on Monday put his rugby union career on hold as he prepares to make his debut as a boxer on the same card as former All Black Sonny Bill Williams.
Cooper’s future has been uncertain since he rejected an incentive-based contract offered by the Australian Rugby Union, which came after his outburst at the “toxic” environment within the national squad.
The 24-year-old Queensland Reds player is under contract until the end of the year but said talks on extending it beyond that have stalled.
“I can’t see anything happening at the moment because all I have in front of me is the offer that I was given, and that offer is one that I’ve already said I won’t accept and I haven’t accepted,” he told a press conference.
Cooper said he had been boxing for months as part of his rehabilitation following knee surgery and was preparing for a fight on February 8 on the undercard of a contest featuring Williams.
“I don’t really have an option to continue forward with rugby union at the moment, so from now on I’m just focusing on getting my body right, continuing my rehab, training still at the Reds as I’m still contracted there,” he said.
“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 star 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.
“I think the ARU has made their point and let that be known,” said Khoder Nasser, Cooper’s manager and the promoter for the fight.
“The way they value Quade, it gives Quade no choice.”
Nasser said Cooper loved being part of the Reds, but his three-year contract with the Queensland team depended on an agreement with the ARU.
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 New Zealand 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, with Cooper contesting a cruiserweight division bout against an as-yet unnamed opponent.