The boxing ring may sound like the last place to regain your bearings.
But Queensland Reds director of coaching Ewen McKenzie says Quade Cooper has never appeared more focussed at rugby training despite also throwing himself into pugilism ahead of next month’s boxing debut.
McKenzie would have been forgiven for being concerned about his social media-loving playmaker juggling a February 8 bout with his Super Rugby pre-season.
Cooper agreed to fight on the undercard of good mate and fellow sport-hopper Sonny Bill Williams in Brisbane next month before settling his differences with the Australian Rugby Union and signing a two-year deal.
But McKenzie only had good things to say about boxing’s influence on his star charge who appears ready for a big season after the controversies of 2012 when he made his disillusionment with the Wallabies environment public.
“He’s been getting his boxing done around normal training. The quality of his rugby training has been outstanding – he seems in a very good space,” MKenzie said on Tuesday.
“He is highly motivated and very switched on.
“He is adding a lot not just in terms of the team but also a lot of mentoring around some of the younger guys.
“And it is the first time since I have known him that he’s had a contract longer than one year – he is fairly settled.”
McKenzie even believed the confidence gained from boxing would benefit Cooper’s rugby game.
“If you are going to put yourself out there in front of a big TV audience and a crowd one-on-one …you can’t help think he is getting some benefit from a confidence point of view,” he said.
But McKenzie cracked a wry smile when asked how Cooper could juggle future boxing bouts.
“We will have to see how he goes in his first bout,” he said.
“We will talk after that.”
Cooper had reportedly knocked out two sparring partners in a week while training away from the Reds gym.
It may be agreeing with Cooper but recovering Reds captain James Horwill – eyeing a rugby comeback from a hamstring complaint in next month’s pre-season trials – has not caught the boxing bug.
“I have no aspirations but hopefully he does well,” Horwill said.
“He certainly enjoys it.
“I have seen him spar. He might surprise a few people.”