QUADE COOPER WILL make his professional boxing debut in February but is no closer to signing a new deal with the Australian Rugby Union.
Cooper, who was recently fined $60,000 for publicly declaring the Wallabies had become a “toxic environment,” will fight a yet to be determined opponent on the undercard of good mate Sonny Bill Williams’s bout against Francois Botha in Brisbane on 8 February.
The controversial playmaker last week rejected an incentive-based contract from the ARU, with his manager Khoder Nasser confirming “a total communication breakdown” with the governing body.
The 24-year-old agreed to a new three-year deal with the Reds several months ago and says he still has the desire to play for Queensland.
However, that contract can only be activated if he comes to terms with the ARU, leaving Cooper in limbo.
“At this stage I’ve sat down and had lengthy discussions with [Reds CEO] Jim Carmichael. He’s been working very hard with our chairman Rod McCall and coach Ewen McKenzie to try and resolve the matter,” Cooper said.
“As it stands now I’m still contracted until the end of December [but] I don’t really have an option to continue forward with rugby union at the moment.
“So from now on I’m just focused on getting my body right, continuing my rehab, training still at the Reds as I’m still contracted there, and I’ll just put my full focus into getting my body right for the upcoming boxing fight.”
Pressed on whether he can see himself playing rugby for the Reds and Wallabies next year, the out-half replied: “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.”
But Cooper, who trained with the Reds on Monday morning, confirmed he still has the desire to play the 15-man code.
“Rugby’s the game I love,” he said.
“I was brought up playing rugby union and rugby league but I’ve been at the Reds since I was about 15 years of age so for me that desire will never go.
“My desire for rugby will never fade, it’s something that I very much love but it’s kind of out of my hands at the moment.”
He added when asked if a stint in the NRL is a genuine option: “It’s something that’s there, it’s an option but that’s for Khoder to work out.
“Obviously I played rugby league as a kid growing up and I stopped playing when I was about 17 or 18, so that’s a fair bit of time away from the game in a professional sense but I’m sure that not too much can change over that period.”
Cooper says watching Williams and former NRL star Anthony Mundine succeed in the ring sparked his interest in the sweet science.
“It’s been a big interest after following Sonny and Choc (Mundine),” he said.
“Just seeing them train, how much effort goes into training, how much you’ve got to push yourself and challenge yourself was something that became a desire.”