Sugar Ray Leonard Painfully Detailed What Happened When Coach ‘Sexually Assaulted’ Him
When we think of Sugar Ray Leonard (64), we think of the icon, the boxing champ, the brotha with one of the fastest footwork capabilities of his era. However, what we don’t think of when we see Sugar Ray, is a man who was once violated and sexually abused when he was a young boxer training to become the greatest. The timing may sound a tad bit odd, but when you read his story, you’ll understand the true pain and inner conflict that this man had to endure. We applaud him for his brutal honesty.
Sugar Ray Details His Sexual Assault
Sugar Ray Leonard says he was sexually abused by his boxing coach starting at the age of 15. He released his autobiography, “The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring,” in 2011, detailing what exactly happened to him.
He first did an extensive interview with The New York Times, stating that his Olympic boxing coach forced him to engage in sexual acts with him, as well as strange acts with a fellow teen boxer at that time:
Via Big Think: According to the summary in the New York Times, Leonard first became suspicious when the coach had him and another fighter take a bath together and watched them from across the room. He was about 15 years old at the time.
Several years later, the article doesn’t say exactly how many, the coach got Leonard alone in a car and gave a speech about how important winning a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics would be for Leonard’s career, and proceeded to unzip Leonard’s fly and sexually assault him.
Leonard was flattered, filled with hope, as any young athlete would be. But he writes: “Before I knew it, he had unzipped my pants and put his hand, then mouth, on an area that has haunted me for life. I didn’t scream. I didn’t look at him. I just opened the door and ran.”
He adds that when he first decided to discuss the incident in the book, which is written with Michael Arkush, he offered a version in which the abuser stopped before there was actual contact. [NYT]
Why He Finally Shared His Story
At the time of his NYTimes interview, Sugar Ray admitted that he was initially too ashamed to give his writer the real version of what happened to him, so he told him that the trainer had stopped before anything sexually transpired. However, he says it was former “Diff’rent Strokes” actor, Todd Bridges,’ heart wrenching interview on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that suddenly made him have a change of heart about telling his true story:
“After watching the actor Todd Bridges bare his soul on Oprah’s show about how he was sexually abused as a kid, I realized I would never be free unless I revealed the whole truth, no matter how much it hurt,” wrote Sugar Ray.
Like we always say, here at ILOSM, celebrities have achieved high levels of greatness in their careers. However, just like us regular folks, they are still perfectly flawed human beings, who have to deal with heartaches, tragedies, and traumas as well. Again, we salute Sugar Ray Leonard for sharing his story with the world…hopefully this will help someone else.