The essence of professional sport is competition. Maybe also beer consumption. But no amount of beer washes down the bitter taste of paying to see part-time fighters beat up haplessly mismatched opponents. That’s if you can even afford a cold one after shelling out forty bucks on the pay-per-view (PPV).

Not boxing very clever… pretty much everything is wrong with this photo. Pic: Getty Images

With Wallaby Quade Cooper announcing this week that he will put his rugby career on ice to moonlight as a boxer, it seems the Australian public will be subjected to yet another painful, expensive mismatch. Cooper, who is set to make his professional debut (with no amateur background) on the undercard of Sonny Bill Williams’ February 8 fight in Brisbane, is only one of a parade of footballers who’ve soured the sweet science with their presence in recent years.

Williams, who shares manager Khoder Nasser with Cooper, is a case in point. Since his debut in 2009, he’s fought five times against opponents whose combined record was 18 wins, 19 losses and a draw. Three of those five wins have come within two rounds.

It seems that the pattern is set to continue. The idea has been floated that Cooper, whose 92 kilograms and 1.86 metres make him larger than late world heavyweight champ Joe Frazier, might face runner John Steffensen, who is as skinny as a scarecrow. Boxing has weight divisions for a reason, though it’s also supposed to have serious regulators who protect participants and the public from mismatches.

Footballers aren’t flocking to pugilism because they appreciate a ding-dong barney (though many of them no doubt do). The attraction is that they can trade off their names and cash in on boxing’s lucrative PPV business model. Viewers pay handsome fees up front, with the only costs being the promotion and production of the broadcast – which can be offset with sponsorship money anyway.

That leaves quite a large pie to be divided between about 28 less people than play in a game of rugby. PPV is why welterweight Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the highest paid athlete in the world, earning $85 million in the last financial year, around 212 times the reported $400,000 ARU offer that Cooper and Nasser found so insulting.

Nasser realised this and found a golden egg with Anthony Mundine fighting Latin American street sweepers on PPV. Now, with Cooper and Williams, he’s built a goose farm. But it’s not sustainable - there’s a limit to the number of times punters will part with $40 when what they’re getting in return is slop.

Cooper probably won’t be a great prizefighter. The number 10 is contact shy at the best of times. Boxing isn’t for part timers, or even latecomers; it’s one of the most skilled and physically demanding sports on earth. Ask American heavyweight hope and former gridiron player Seth Mitchell, who got brutally knocked out the weekend before last.

Boxing is a sport full of nuance, intelligence and courage. Football players bashing unfortunate souls on government benefits only gives ammunition to the Gardening Australia watching vegans who claim we’d all be better off if archery and squash were on TV instead.

Spar with Alex on Twitter: @axmcc

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST

Most commented


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    • TimB says:

      05:31am | 29/11/12

      Oh god, [i[Nasser is Cooper’s agent?

      Everything makes sense now. Nasser is a grub.

    • acotrel says:

      06:00am | 29/11/12

      I once attended one of Jimmy Sharman’s boxing shows in Bendigo years ago.  I can see how guys can get sucked into getting their head’s punched, but it was pretty appalling.

    • stephen says:

      07:31am | 29/11/12

      That whole piece is spot on especially the last 2 paragraphs : everybody wants a piece of the action whether they be armchair viewers, egger’s-on or participants because a fist-fight is now the schoolies weapon of choice - not to mention every drunk who doesn’t get to go home with a date - and everyone wants to be a hero who cannot talk nice or turn into the class-clown.

      Once, only kids who were up against the wall would take this sport on ; only kids with guts, brains and a damned good trainer would get to fight a worthy opponent, but now every dumb NRL boy who needs a sideshow alley, ends up de-flowering their own spirit and credibility, not to mention boxing.
      These guys are shadow boxers, and only their mothers should be their audience.

    • Markus says:

      07:35am | 29/11/12

      Not sure what you’re worried about, the only boxing that has any real credibility is Olympic boxing.
      The regular match-fixing scandals aside, professional boxing is probably the only sport where becoming the champion doesn’t actually require you to be the best or beat the best.

      That somebody like Mundine has been able to forge a successful career fighting nobody but has-beens and hobos is case in point.

    • Schultz says:

      08:20am | 29/11/12

      Olympic Boxing lost any (limited) credibility it had in Seoul in 1992 when Roy Jones Jnr lost to a South Korean on points.

    • SZF says:

      08:43am | 29/11/12

      Hardly, amateur/Olympic boxing has even less credibility than professional. The judging there has been iffy for decades.

      Take Roy Jones Jr’s loss in the gold medal match at Seoul ‘88 - he outlanded his opponent 86-32, but lost a split decision to a local opponent. Three judges were later found to have been wined and dined by South Korean officials and were suspended. Jones Jr on the other hand was awarded the Val Barker Trophy as the Seoul Games’ most outstanding and stylistic boxer.

      Jeff Fenech was also robbed in his LA ‘84 bout. I vaguely recall the eventual gold medal winner hanging his medal around Fenech’s neck a few years later when Fenech destroyed him in a professional bout.

    • Bill says:

      07:35am | 29/11/12

      Never heard of Quade Cooper or Sony Williams, but it doesn’t surprise me that rugby players are stupid enough to get in a boxing ring.

    • Levi says:

      08:08am | 29/11/12

      Bill the troll rears his head again. They get into the boxing ring because they have skill and athleticism beyond any AFL player. I would pay big money to see Barry Hall or any other talentless aussie rules stringbean jump in the ring and get completely whipped by Sonny Bill. You do realise that Barry Hall is one AFL who is trying his hand at boxing, don’t you Bill?

    • iansand says:

      08:12am | 29/11/12

      Someone offers you a pot of money to get into a ring and duck and weave against an opponent who is likely to be equally as incompetent as you, so not much danger of hurt.  And that’s stupid?

    • I hate pies says:

      09:04am | 29/11/12

      Levi, Barry was a golden gloves before he became a professional footy player. He’s not taking up boxing, he’s already done it. He would make a mess of Sonny Bill in about two rounds. At 6’ 4” and over 100kg, he’s hardly a string bean.

    • TheRealDave says:

      09:06am | 29/11/12

      Bill you still pissed that Rugby League is still up about 9-1 in RL v AFL boxing bouts?

      Yeah, I would be too wink

    • Kika says:

      09:08am | 29/11/12

      Levi - Let it go. AFL players are more ‘athletic’ than rugby league and union players. They are built differently. Rugby league and union players are built for power and short burts of speed - AFL players are like gazelles where Rugby players are like rhinos. Built for completely different things. Comparing them is stupidity.

      I don’t agree with Bill though - AFL players can do boxing too. Look at Barry Hall.

    • fitter says:

      09:42am | 29/11/12

      Levi - hate to burst your bubble champ, but barry grew up boxing, and debated taking it up professionally before football, his skills in the ring are well known. Sonny bill is just a side show, barry would towel him up. The point of the article is its an insult to those who dedicate their lives to the art of boxing

    • Tim says:

      10:11am | 29/11/12

      Being a marathon runner doesn’t make you more “athletic”.

      Actually it’s not really suprising that only a few AFL players have had a go at boxing. Light impacts, weak tackles and the soft players of AFL doesn’t really engender the type of toughness you’d need to be a boxer.

    • Kika says:

      11:05am | 29/11/12

      Tim - the type of tackles required in AFL are completely different to that in the rugby codes. You can’t just run into people in AFL, you need to be quick, lithe and strong at the same time. You meathead league fans are seriously deluded. Can’t you get through your heads that AFL is a different sport to the rugby codes? It’s like comparing the skill set of a Table Tennis player versus that of a beach volleyballer. Both play with balls but in entirely different ways.  Completely different.

    • iansand says:

      03:21pm | 29/11/12

      Kika - Do they do tackles in AFL?  When?

    • Bill says:

      08:45am | 29/11/12

      Skill and athleticism Levi?

      Jogging slowly forward and bouncing off an opposition player? Gently throwing an over-inflated ball BACKWARDS? Barely able to kick the ball 20-30 metres? No skill involved there.

      Compared to footballers who can sprint at full pace while bouncing an oval-shaped ball, kick or handball with absolute precison to a team mate, kick a ball over 60 metres, tackle a fast-moving opponent, kick a ball in a ‘banana-shaped’ trajectory, leap 2 metres in the air over an opponent’s shoulders, read the play in a 3-dimensional, 360 degree environment and run a half marathon every game.

      Australian footballers shit all over the fat rugby players when it comes to skill and athleticism. Must be why our national code outrates rugby on TV.

    • Tim says:

      10:16am | 29/11/12

      this should read:

      “Compared to footballers who can run at a slow pace while bouncing an oval-shaped ball, kick or handball out of bounds on the full, barely kick a ball 40 metres, arm grab and miss a fast-moving opponent, kick a ball in a ‘banana-shaped’ trajectory missing the goal but still receiving a point for trying, leap 2 metres in the air kneeing an opponent in the back in a soft act, misread the play in a 3-dimensional, 360 degree environment, run a quarter marathon every game (which is a completely boring sport) and spend half the game falling over each other like seagulls on a chip.”

    • Kika says:

      11:10am | 29/11/12

      Again, Tim - you don’t get a point for ‘trying’ - there’s 2 ways of scoring - 1 point or 6 points.  If you kick it out on the full, you don’t get anything.

      Haven’t you ever seen Quidditch? There are different ways to score. Or perhaps you are too simple to understand a multifaceted game such as AFL?

    • Tim says:

      12:31pm | 29/11/12

      Ah No Kika,
      you get points for missing. Perhaps you should learn the history of your own favourite sport?

      The aim of the game is to score goals and always has been. They introduced the behind score in 1897 presumably to reward teams that had more shots at goal.
      Still doesn’t change the fact that it’s points for missing/trying.

      Quidditch? LOL

    • Arnold Layne says:

      08:53am | 29/11/12

      Professional boxing is a joke and has been for years, but isn’t the bigger joke on the idiots who fork out money to watch this garbage on PPV?

    • Rose says:

      09:22am | 29/11/12

      Yep, the boxers are taking advantage of people who are prepared to cough up money to watch this rubbish.

    • AFR says:

      10:24am | 29/11/12

      Exactly. Its called capitalism. People can bag them all they like, but it appears SOMEBODY out there is prepared to pay to see it.

    • TheRealDave says:

      09:08am | 29/11/12

      Credibility and Boxing is a classic Oxymoron.

      Professional Boxing lost what litlte credibility it had after Don King arrived on the scene. Nowadays its little better than the WWE…..

    • Markus says:

      10:36am | 29/11/12

      At least with WWE you know in advance that *Spoiler Alert* the matches are fixed.

    • TheRealDave says:

      02:40pm | 29/11/12

      Much like the LFL wink

    • Bah says:

      09:36am | 29/11/12

      And this is why we all watch MMA / UFC nowadays.

      Boxing has been a joke for a while.

    • TheRealDave says:

      11:34am | 29/11/12

      You had to go and ‘gay up’ what was a masculine discussion about the pugalistic arts didn’t you??


    • Tim says:

      12:33pm | 29/11/12

      The Real Dave,
      It’s funny these days with more and more people preferring the excitment of Man on Man Action (MMA)

    • stephen says:

      04:26pm | 29/11/12

      MMA/UFC is hard work, but so is watching war movies, and both are like watching chickens fighting for a piece of bread, eg. no technique or real power.
      Boxing is a joke, now - maybe the exception is Danny Green’s career - but only up till maybe 10-13 years ago, it was one of the great sports.
      Bad money got hold of it, and I reckon it started when bouts were held exclusively at gambling casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

      Still, good boxing may disappear altogether, but a whole generation like mine have at least seen in the ring on TV, true effort and courage.

      ps   The next Olympics should next time just call themselves ‘The Games’ : as evidenced from the London ones’, there was nothing ‘Olympic’ about them.

    • Harbinger says:

      10:58am | 29/11/12

      Put Cooper up against Adam Hollioake (93kg).  Nah, hang on, that’s a bit too likely to result in an actual fight that someone other than Cooper might win, even if Hollioake’s in his 40’s now.  I’m sure Nasser can drag up some 50 year old school janitor from NZ (where all the Nasser fighters’ opponents seem to come from) who might just be able to string together some trash talk before laying down for a nap in the second round, allowing Cooper to walk away without a scratch.  I hope the ARU tell him he’s too big a risk after he fights and reduced his contract further (if they offer him one at all).

    • Basil says:

      11:28am | 29/11/12

      As a boxing and martial arts coach I tire of the vitriole handed out to these athletes. I know firsthand what it is to fight and i also know that an athlete switching codes needs time to gain his feet and composure in the boxing ring. Anthony Mundine has taken on the best in the world and lost albeit extremely narrowly (Mikel Kessler). They take risks financially as well as in the ring and who can blame them for ultimately thinking of providing for their family and not coming unstuck for the viewing pleasure of some bitter armchair pub critic who will continue to hate them no matter what they do. These people raise the profile of boxing and just like music pop stars will come and go but true musicians stand the test of time. They are all valid and add to the rich texture of the sport I love.

    • TheRealDave says:

      02:52pm | 29/11/12

      Lost extremely narrowly??

      Sven Otke knocked him the #$%* out wink


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