Sonny Bill Williams will take another step towards his goal of becoming a world heavyweight boxing champion when he takes on South Africa's Francois Botha for the WBA International belt in February.
Williams will announce details of the KO To Drugs bout at a press conference with Quade Cooper in Brisbane on Monday expected to cover a range of controversial topics involving the future of the pair.
The fight, scheduled for the last Saturday in February, will now be held before Williams' official return to the NRL with Sydney Roosters before the season-opener against South Sydney on March 7.
The 27-year-old former All Blacks star, who has been recovering from a pectoral muscle tear suffered playing rugby union in Japan, is expected to have three or four weeks of full training with the Roosters before his first premiership match since walking out on the Bulldogs in August 2008.
Cooper's immediate future is not so clear as the Wallabies playmaker's fight is believed to have been scheduled for the week leading up to the Queensland Reds' opening Super Rugby match in Canberra on February 16.
He will announce that he is making his boxing debut on the undercard of the fight between Williams, the New Zealand heavyweight champion, and Botha, who has previously held a world title and been in the ring with the likes of Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield.
Cooper has been training for more than six months for the fight but beyond that his future is unclear after deciding to reject an incentive-based offer from the Australian Rugby Union that would have seen him paid match payments only for tests with the Wallabies.
The deal included a $100,000 bonus if he played 60 per cent of tests next season but is considered an insult by Cooper, who was Australia's No 1 player heading into last year's World Cup, as it would put him outside the top 30 ARU contracts.
The 24-year-old has signed a three-year deal with the Queensland Rugby Union worth $400,000 a season but that is dependent on him signing an ARU contract and the Sydney Morning Herald was told he could not play for the Reds without being available for the Wallabies.
Despite Wallabies coach Robbie Deans telling Sky Sports Radio last week that he would welcome Cooper in the test squad, the decision to downgrade his contract so significantly suggests otherwise.
Cooper also feels the decision to impose a record $60,000 fine ($20,000 of which was suspended) and a suspended three-match ban for criticising the mood in the Wallabies camp and the state of the game was an attempt by the ARU hierarchy to put the outsider with a rugby league background back in his place.
However, Queensland officials are working behind the scenes to try to convince Cooper he has a future in Australian rugby union and he talked with QRU chairman Jim Carmichael in Brisbane on Sunday.
He is also understood to have received offers to play rugby union in France next year, while there has been interest from NRL clubs - although finalising a deal appears difficult due to salary cap restrictions.
South African promoter Thinus Strydom, of World Sport Promotions, has welcomed news that Cooper will feature on the undercard of the Williams-Botha fight being organised by manager Khoder Nasser.
''He'll be a major drawcard in Aussie and New Zealand, and together with Sonny Bill Williams headlining the February bill, there could be fireworks in Brisbane,'' Strydom said.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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