*Sugar Ray Leonard is one of the all-time greats in boxing. His fights and triumphs are legendary. His status as a Boxing Hall of Fame member is unquestioned. Yet for years he kept a secret hidden from the outside world.
While Leonard was piling up an impressive boxing resume, including earning a gold medal and world title belts along the way, demons of uncertainty, drugs, alcohol, living a promiscuous lifestyle and ego-tripping tormented him all the way to the top.
Yet it is the secret now unveiled in Leonard’s new book, “The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring,” which the former champion will be signing at Eso Won Bookstore and circulating at the 5th Annual Leimert Park Book Fair in Los Angeles this Saturday, can very easily be seen as the catalyst that tripped up his first marriage and caused his near self-destruction.
The same man who whipped Marvelous Marvin Hagler, smoked Thomas Hearns, took away Roberto Duran’s manhood and stunned Wilfred Benitez has lived in pain and agony for years, trying to keep the secret quiet.
The shame behind the secret became unbearable. It has followed him. It has haunted him. It doesn’t haunt him anymore. After years of trying to hide from the pain he’s felt through booze and other devices, Leonard has decided to come clean about the issue that has affected him since he was an ambitious teenager trying to establish himself as the next boxing phenom.
Victims of sexual molestation can go years without sharing the unwanted violation of their bodies and soul to anyone, even those thought to be closest to them. Shame and blaming themselves for the violation are major reasons why victims don’t share their anguish with anyone. For a long time, Leonard was in that boat.
As his fame escalated him into the limelight of international stardom, coming out as a victim of sexual molestation would have to be suppressed.
Until now. In “The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring,” Leonard shares with readers shocking details of two incidents in which he was sexually molested by two men he knew and were well acquainted with. Two men he trusted were looking out for his best interest.
It turns out that the two men that Leonard is dropping a dime on in the book were only interested in luring a charismatic, yet vulnerable young man into a world of deception and disbelief in the form of sexually assaulting him.
The first incident, Leonard describes in “The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring,” took place when a well-established Olympic boxing coach tried to take advantage of him as the two sat in a car talking. The coach who is unnamed in the book, unzips Leonard’s pants, and then places his hands and then his mouth on the former champ’s private parts before the 1976 Olympic gold medal winner jumps out of the vehicle and runs away.
This incident would re-invent itself in the form of another man Leonard trusted, one who would also betray him. According to Leonard, this elderly man was kicking him down with cash at various times. One night the man tried to collect on those cash advances as he attempted to seduce Leonard in much the same manner as the first molester did.
Once again, Leonard ran away again, a young man now fully castrated in self-pity, shame and repressive thoughts. Leonard tried to pretend those incidents never happened. It worked for a while, but occasional flashbacks of the two encounters would remind him that they did take place.
“The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring” is an inescapable journey of triumph and balm of healed release for Leonard. The book is an astute look at a young boy who once celebrated Christmas with only apples and oranges.
The book is a stark view of a fragile, yet determined boxer eager to pull himself and his family out of the depths of poverty and struggle to a dazzling champion fraught with insecurities and challenges.
In the end, Leonard proves in “The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring” that if you’re true to yourself, you can come out victorious no matter how large the obstacles are in front of you.