Sugar Ray Leonard may have just recently starred on Dancing With the Stars, but the boxing champ's life sounds more fit for a blockbuster biopic a la Ray or Walk the Line. At least, that's what you might think from just a few of the juicy tidbits from his forthcoming autobiography, The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring, written with Michael Arkush.
The details that have emerged thus far actually paint a very disturbing portrait of a man who seems to have risen above much adversity to become the living legend he is today.
Here, 8 of the most surprising details about Leonard's life from his new book and the publicity surrounding it ...
1. He almost drowned as a child. When he was about 10 years old and living with his family in the suburbs of Palmer Park, Maryland, Ray nearly drowned in a creek during a flood.
2. Ray says he was sexually abused by his coach as a teen. The Hall of Famer writes that an unnamed “prominent Olympic boxing coach," who has since died, accompanied him as a 15-year-old and another young fighter to a boxing event in Utica, New York, in 1971, where the coach sat with them while they bathed. Then, several years later, he writes that he was physically molested by the same man.
3. He struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse. Although his drug and alcohol use were made public in 1991 when he responded to a report in the Los Angeles Times about records of his divorce from his first wife, Juanita, he also addresses his addictions in The Big Fight.
4. He survived a car crash. The boxing champ was in a horrific near-fatal car accident, in which his own mother was the driver!
5. Ray had a disturbing home life. He reveals in the book that his household was plagued with alcohol abuse and domestic violence. Specifically, he writes of how his parents’ relationship was loving but filled with turbulence. He recounts an instance in which his mother stabbed his father in the back with a switchblade he had shown her how to use, sending him bloodied into the street in search of someone to remove it.
6. He fathered a child at 17 years old. Leonard's high school girlfriend, Juanita Wilkinson, told him she was pregnant in the summer of 1973. They decided to have the baby, but put off the marriage until after the Olympics in 1976. Until then, Juanita and the baby lived with Ray's parents.
7. He watches Oprah. He wrote that he was inspired to reveal "the whole truth" about his sexual abuse after watching the actor Todd Bridges bare his soul on Oprah’s show about how he was sexually abused as a kid.
8. He was emotionally troubled, as he pursued his boxing dreams. Ray writes that he was "in a lot of pain" while chasing his dream of winning the Olympic gold. Nonetheless, he went on to meet his goal, and also won five world championships in five weight classes.
Given all of this drama Sugar Ray has lived through in his 55 years, it's truly amazing how far he's come. It sounds like he's lived multiple lives, and after every hit he's taken, he's bounced right back. Seems like boxing is the perfect metaphor for his life. Given how much it speaks to his bravery, strength, and ability to persevere in the face of so much adversity, The Big Fight could very well be fodder for Hollywood's next big boxing flick. And there's no doubt Ray deserves all the support and accolades that are bound to come his way.
Are you surprised by these details about Sugar Ray Leonard's life?
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