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'He'll fight again': Sonny Bill Williams keen to fight alongside Quade Cooper

By Sam Smith
Quade Cooper and Sonny Bill Williams share a laugh at the 2016 Sydney Sevens. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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All Blacks great Sonny Bill Williams says he would “love” to fight alongside Wallabies star Quade Cooper as part of a headline boxing card.

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Williams, the two-time World Cup winner who played 58 tests for the All Blacks between 2010 and 2019, is set to fight ex-AFL bad boy Barry Hall in Sydney on Wednesday in what will be his second fight since returning to boxing last June.

It was then when the 36-year-old triple-code star ended his six-year hiatus from the ring with an unanimous decision victory over Australian fighter Waikato Falefehi in Townsville.

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Now the two-time NRL title-winner and former New Zealand heavyweight champion is looking to maintain his perfect 8-0 record with another win against Hall in the New South Wales capital.

Following on from his next bout, Williams is eager to extend his boxing career by another two years as enters the final chapter of his glittering sporting career.

“The plan is to do this for 24 months and see where it takes me,” Williams told Channel Nine days earlier this week.

Over the course those two years, Williams could find himself sharing a card with Cooper, the veteran first-five who returned from test rugby wilderness to star for the Wallabies last year.

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It had been four years since Cooper last played for Australia, but the 33-year-old guided the Wallabies to five straight victories, including back-to-back wins over the Springboks, before returning to the Hanazono Kintetsu Liners in Japan.

Cooper’s performances have put him at the centre of Australia’s plans for next year’s World Cup in France, but it may be that he follows Williams back into boxing after that tournament.

Cooper has previously dabbled as a fighter, holding an unbeaten record across three professional fights held between 2013 and 2017.

The New Zealand-born playmaker made his boxing debut on the undercard of Williams’ bout against South African fighter Francois Botha eight years ago.

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Cooper was also supposed to fight on the undercard of Williams’ bout with American boxer Chauncy Welliver in 2015, but later withdrew.

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The prospect of Williams and Cooper teaming up on another boxing card isn’t out of the question, though, as the former told the Sydney Morning Herald in the lead-up to his fight with Hall that he believes his long-time friend isn’t done with boxing just yet.

“We’re always in contact. I’d love to have him here, and he loves boxing. I’d say once his next contract is up, he’ll fight again,” Williams, who retired from rugby union and rugby league last March, said.

“I reckon if the pandemic folded the [Japanese rugby] competition – there was some talk about that – I dare say he would be right here, right now, looking at a fighting career for himself.”

Cooper’s potential return to the ring could coincide with a highly-anticipated bout between Williams and rugby league legend Paul Gallen.

Williams and Gallen, the former NRL title-winning Cronulla Sharks captain, have long been linked with a big-money fight against each other, with Gallen having forged an impressive 12-1-1 professional boxing career since 2014.

Among those Gallen has fought includes Hall (who he drew with in 2019), former WBA heavyweight champion Lucas Browne (who he beat with a first round knockout last April) and ex-UFC star Mark Hunt (who he beat via unanimous decision in 2020).

He and Williams are yet to share a ring together, though, but the latter indicated that he wants that to change over the coming years.

“I know your next question will be, ‘Is Paul Gallen part of it [his two-year boxing plan]?'” Williams – who trained alongside WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in preparation for his fight against Hall – told Channel Nine.

“Definitely, but we’ll have to see how Wednesday night goes and, after a great victory, then we’ll work on what’s next.”

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