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Boxing | International

Cooper confirms boxing debut

Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper is putting his rugby career on hold as he prepares to make his boxing debut early next year.

The Queensland Reds player said in Brisbane on Monday he had been boxing for months as part of his rehabilitation from knee surgery.

He is preparing for a fight on February 8 on the undercard of a tournament in which former All Black Sonny Bill Williams takes on South African Francois Botha.

"As it stands now, I'm still contracted (with the Australian Rugby Union) until the end of December," Cooper, 24, said at a press conference.

"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.

"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 to them. I'm just putting my full focus on getting my body right for the boxing fight."

Cooper's future has been uncertain after he reportedly reacted furiously to the incentive-based contract offered to him by the Australian Rugby Union.

He was hit last month with the biggest fine in Australian rugby history for his outburst on social media in September about the "toxic" environment in the Wallabies squad and the defensive style of coach Robbie Deans.

He said he did not feel he could play for Australia at that time.

Cooper was fined 40 000 Australian dollars (about R372 000) and a further Aus $20 000 suspended for two years. He was also slapped with a suspended three-match ban for his comments. He later apologised for his behaviour.

With his ARU contract about to expire, speculation has mounted that Cooper will switch to 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."

Williams has confirmed his return to rugby league, agreeing a one-year deal with the Sydney Roosters.

The All Black will fight Botha in a heavyweight bout in Brisbane on February 8. Cooper will fight in the cruiserweight division on the same card. His opponent has not been named.


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