x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Quade Cooper becomes latest rugby player to switch to boxing

The outspoken fly-half will fight on the undercard of fellow rugby player Sonny Bill Williams' bout with Francois Botha next year following his row with the Australian Rugby Union.

Quade Cooper is reportedly unhappy with the environment in the Australia team. Chris Hyde / Getty Images
Quade Cooper is reportedly unhappy with the environment in the Australia team. Chris Hyde / Getty Images

Controversial Australia rugby international Quade Cooper has confirmed he will put his career on hold as he prepares to make his debut in the boxing ring next year.

The fly-half's future with the Australian Rugby Union has been uncertain since his reported rejection of an incentive-based contract, following an outburst at the "toxic" environment within the national squad.

But now the Queensland Reds player says he will fight on the undercard of Sonny Bill Williams' forthcoming bout in February.

"As it stands now, I'm still contracted [with the ARU] until the end of December," Cooper said today.

"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."

New Zealand World Cup winner Williams, who announced earlier this month he was switching from union to league, will fight South Africa's Francois Botha in a heavyweight bout in Brisbane on February 8.

Cooper, who has been boxing training as part of his recovery from knee surgery, will fight at cruiserweight on the same card against an as yet unnamed opponent.

The 24-year-old was hit a Aus$40,000 (Dh153,000) - the biggest fine in Australian rugby history - and given a suspended three-match ban earlier this year for his criticisms of coach Robbie Deans and the environment inside the international team dressing room.

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."

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