Controversial Australian boxer Damien Hooper was all smiles at a press conference in London yesterday ahead of his Olympic debut.
Controversial Australian boxer Damien Hooper was all smiles at a press conference in London yesterday ahead of his Olympic debut. Jeff Gross

Trip home good for prep

DALBY boxer Damien Hooper insists his controversial exit from a team training camp last month was in the best interests of his Olympic preparation.

The 20-year-old light heavyweight was sent home from the team's Canberra training camp following a series of run-ins with coaches and teammates.

Boxing Australia said at the time that Hooper could only return when he learned "reasonable standards of good manners and respect" toward the rest of the boxing team.

But Hooper told reporters in London yesterday that it was his decision to leave as he wanted to clear his head and focus on his Olympic preparation at home.

"I felt at that time that is where I needed to be because I wanted to make everything perfect 'cause of coming into London," he said.

"I asked the coach as a request (to leave) and he sort of disagreed with me. He thought it was best for me to stay there and basically from there we made the best decision for me to go home. So that is it."

Hooper said any issues within the 12-strong Australian boxing squad had been resolved at a pre-Games training session in Northern Ireland.

"We just got back from Ireland and we all just bonded and we are excited to be here and be a part of this and I am excited personally," he said.

"It is my first ever Olympics. So it is a good experience."

Hooper is no stranger to controversy, having also been sent home early from the 2010 Commonwealth Games after an alleged indiscretion in front of an official.

But he is ranked second in the world in the light heavyweight division and is widely regarded as Australia's best chance of a boxing medal since 1988.

And Hooper said he was enjoying the limelight that comes from that expectation.

"I kind of like the attention I am getting so far," he said.

"I just can't wait to get into a ring and show everyone my ability and my skills and I can't wait to fight."



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