Cooper, Steffensen Could be on a Collision Course
By Daniel Lane
Australian sports renegades Quade Cooper and John Steffensen are on course to meet in the boxing ring for a bout, which in the lead-up at least, would be certain to make the outspoken Anthony Mundine seem like a mute-angel.
Steffensen teamed up with former world champion Jeff Fenech and trained among a host of other fighters including world champs Danny Green, Vic Darchinyan and Kostya Tszyu, not long after his controversy-charged London Olympics campaign.
The runner tested the patience of the Australian Olympic Committee and Athletics Australia by raising the spectre of racism in his sport to the international media and then threatening to boycott competing in the 4x400m relay when teenager Steve Solomon was picked to contest the individual event ahead of him.
His opponent, Cooper, is looking at a future in boxing after announcing on Monday his intention to sever ties with the Wallabies after being offered a substantially reduced ARU contract. Cooper was recently slapped with a AUS $40,000 fine by the ARU for, among other things, describing the national team's culture under embattled coach Robbie Deans as "toxic".
It's a match made in a boxing promoter's heaven and Steffensen revealed the wheels were in motion to "get it on" when he and NRL star Willie Mason sat ringside in Melbourne as Green won his fourth world title on Wednesday night.
"I'd like to make Quade my first professional fight," said Steffensen, a former golden gloves champion in his native Western Australia. "I'm very pleased with the way it is going with Jeff."
Mason, who has trained alongside Steffensen as part of his own preparation for a charity boxing bout in New Zealand, spoke glowingly of the triple-Olympian and 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist's pugilistic ability describing him as "very sharp, very impressive."
Fenech believes Steffensen has enormous potential and could challenge for a national title.
It is not known whether Fenech, who has worked in collaboration to help Cooper's manager Khoder Nasser obtain fights for Mundine, has worked in conjunction with Nasser to orchestrate the bout that would attract international exposure.
However, the similarity between Cooper's controversial departure from rugby to boxing has a similar feel to the way in which Mundine abandoned St George Illawarra in 2000.
Mundine's burn-all-rugby-league-bridges was managed by Nasser. While the pair have recently parted ways, Nasser fulfilled his promise to guide the former NSW State of Origin player to a series of lucrative fights and world titles.
There was no doubt he could do the same for Cooper, if he is good enough. The first port of call - Steffensen - would be a guaranteed ratings bonanza. In a bizarre twist some rugby officials could well be in Steffensen's corner urging him to rip Cooper's head off while some athletics officials would undoubtedly cheer for the Wallaby to chop their running man to pieces.