Damien Hooper declares: “I’m Australia’s best talent” Damien Hooper declares: “I’m Australia’s best talent”
DAMIEN Hooper is out to prove he’s the best fighter in Australia. It’s a bold declaration but before he can lay claim to such... Damien Hooper declares: “I’m Australia’s best talent”

DAMIEN Hooper is out to prove he’s the best fighter in Australia.

It’s a bold declaration but before he can lay claim to such a lofty assertion, the former Olympian must get past Kempsey’s Renold Quinlan (12-2, 8 KO’s) this Saturday night on DDP Sports’ impressive ‘Revolution’ card at the Brisbane Convention Centre.

Whilst Hooper (13-1, 8 KOs) has his eyes set on becoming a household name in Australia, he’s also made it clear that he’s not looking past the rugged Quinlan.

“I think he’s got talent and ability, I can’t say anything negative against him,” Hooper told Aus-Boxing. “He’s fought some of the best, he’s a good fighter and I’m not looking past him, I’m focussing on him.”

Hooper was a highly regarded prospect when he turned professional back in 2013 and after nine straight victories-eight by knockout-there was little reason to believe that he wouldn’t live up to the soaring expectations many had of him but a shock defeat against Rob Powdrill in November of 2014 threatened to derail his promising career.

The setback was a real eye-opener for him.

“At the time of the loss, it was early in my career, I was nine wins with eight knockouts and I thought I was Mike Tyson,” he says. “I wasn’t in the right headspace mentally for the fight and I took him too lightly and he got the result. At the end of the day you can’t cheat boxing otherwise look what happens.”

“You can’t cheat the sport, it’s the hardest sport in the world and ever since then I’ve been training hard every camp and I don’t take my eyes off any opponent.”

This realisation that you ‘can’t cheat boxing’ has Hooper’s career well and truly back on track and his impressive performance against the previously unbeaten Umar Salamov on the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn undercard is testament to that fact.

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Such a consummate victory against a quality opponent is the reason why Hooper’s confidence is sky-high right now.

“It’s boosted my confidence and my career,” he added. “I took the fight, I was willing to do it and I showed everybody my ability and what I can do. I still believe I’m Australia’s best talent, I just need the opportunities.”

Against Quinlan, Hooper has another chance to show that talent. Quinlan is no slouch himself having defeated former unified world champion Daniel Geale and having fought an all-out war with Britain’s Chris Eubank Jr. last year but Hooper believes he has the game plan to get past him.

“I’m out to execute the game plan as best as I can,” he continued. “Do I think there’s going to be a knockout? I think if I do everything my coach says, there will be.”

It’s clear that Hooper is taking the fight game seriously these days but his newfound confidence isn’t confined to just him and his team. Hooper was given some words of encouragement recently from none other than New Zealand’s Joseph Parker.

“I got a Facetime call from Joseph Parker the other day, before his fight with Anthony Joshua,” Hooper said. ”

“He told me that I should be a world champion. Having those words come from Joseph Parker who’s about to fight in the biggest fight in the world is amazing. He believes in me. To have his support and for him to say those words just makes me believe it and I just have to execute it.”

Executing the game plan is something you’ll hear Damien Hooper say quite often, and with good reason. There’s little doubt he has the talents to become one of Australia’s best but it’s easy to say it and another thing entirely to achieve it.

Hooper sounds like he’s ready to do both.

The ‘Revolution’ card, headlined by Dennis Hogan vs. ‘Jimmy’ Kilrain Kelly, will be live streamed on Saturday night free of charge here.

Words: Dan Attias/Follow Dan on Twitter
Photo: Louie Abigail