Author: Sylvia Burley
Sugar Ray Leonard reveals in his upcoming autobiography that he was sexually abused by a prominent, but unnamed, boxing coach while preparing for the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
He goes into great detail in his new book, “The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring”, co-written with Yahoo!Sports columnist Michael Arkush.
This book isn’t the first time he intended to tell the story. More than three decades ago, Leonard hired sports writer Pat Putnam to tell his tale, but was unable to address the sexual abuse because he hadn’t come to terms with it himself and the project was eventually scrapped.
He wrote that it wasn’t until he saw actor Todd Bridges on Oprah that he decided to write the entire truth.
“I finally got to a point in my life where I wanted to be totally transparent with my family, my wife, my kids and let go of that burden of pain that I carried inside of my chest for so long,” Leonard said.
In the book, he describes the abuse by writing he was in a car across from a recreation center with an Olympic coach. They were ostensibly there to discuss the significance of a gold medal.
“Before I knew it, he had unzipped my pants and put his hand, then mouth, on an area that has haunted me for life,” Leonard wrote. “I didn’t scream. I didn’t look at him. I just opened the door and ran.”
Leonard has been considered an iconic figure in boxing since winning the gold medal in 1976 and going on to defeat legendary fighters such as Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Wilfred Benitez, among many others.
“I’ve done a lot of things in my life that I’m not proud of,” Leonard said soberly during a telephone interview.
Leonard, who claims to not have consumed either drugs or alcohol in nearly five years, said he resorted to abuse as a way of making the pain and the embarrassment he felt over the sexual abuse go away.
He’s a different man, a better husband and a more caring father, for having finally released the secret he carried for so many years, he said.
“Telling this story was something I had to do for me,” said Leonard. “It’s like I have been released from some incredible burden. I had this huge weight taken from my shoulders and now I can be the man that I always wanted to be.”
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