Cooper can take a hit, and has video to prove it
Congratulations Canberra rugby fans, you actually had exclusive ringside seats to Quade Cooper's unofficial boxing debut. Although, chances are you missed it.
Cooper has pointed to video footage of a right-handed love-tap from then-ACT Brumbies prop Salesi Ma'afu at Canberra Stadium in March 2011 as evidence he can take a punch and is ready for an official bout at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre in February.
''He gave me one when I wasn't looking. He's a big bopper and I got up from that,'' Cooper said.
Got up from it? Wouldn't that imply Cooper was knocked down?
The scuffle was more ''Cuddles in Canberra'' than ''Rumble in the Jungle''. With Cooper badgering him, Ma'afu swatted at his Australian Wallabies teammate with a right fist that didn't even have enough power to dislodge Cooper's grip on Ma'afu's jumper.
It's fair to say the 126kg tight-head prop did not put all his weight behind the blow.
The Reds cited Ma'afu for the punch. The Brumbies then counter-cited Cooper for instigating the incident. And after they'd traded insurance details, Super Rugby's citing commission cited no one and sent them both back to their corners.
Fox Sports commentator and former Brumbies centre Rod Kafer disputed that decision at the time, joking that Ma'afu should be been suspended because the tight-head prop hadn't even been able to rattle the knees of the Reds No.10.
Eyebrows - along with safety concerns - were raised when Cooper confirmed he would make his professional debut on the undercard of another boxing convert, good friend Sonny Bill Williams, in Brisbane on February 8.
The controversial Queensland Reds five-eighth - in rugby limbo due to stalled ARU talks - has copped a few on the chin from critics over the years.
The likes of cricketer Andrew Flintoff and Olympic gold medal rower James Cracknell are living proof that wearing one while in the ring is very different.
Former England cricket captain Flintoff makes his professional debut on Saturday (AEST) and admits he still fears being punched despite months of training.
''All the stuff you do in the gym … it doesn't really get you ready for trying to take a punch,'' Flintoff told Sky Sports.
Just ask Cracknell.
The double Olympic rowing gold medallist was knocked out cold in the first round of his boxing debut five years ago - and critics fear the same fate awaits Flintoff.
''Giving Flintoff a professional licence with no experience of boxing is a joke,'' English fight promoter Frank Maloney said.
But Cooper reckons the nimble footwork that appears in so many Super Rugby show reels will ensure he is a hit in boxing.
''I found it helped me when sparring, the way I could evade punches,'' Cooper said.
Of course, it may all become a moot point. Revived ARU talks will all but ensure his fight, set for eight days before the Reds' season opener against the ACT, will be abandoned.
And if it isn't, Cooper faces a smooth transition into boxing judging by his manager Khoder Nasser's record with fellow star charge Williams.
Williams made his boxing debut in Brisbane three years ago against fellow Kiwi Gary ''The Baboon'' Gurr, who trashed a pre-fight press conference before making a monkey of himself in their fight.