Boxing Hall of Famer and true living legend Sugar Ray Leonard turned 55 today, and is a happy man living comfortably, by all accounts.
But in his upcoming book "The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring," Leonard reveals a 40-year-old pain from his days as an amateur boxing star. Harvey Araton of The New York Times has more, but here's a brief quote:
[Leonard] reveals publicly for the first time that he was sexually abused as a young fighter by an unnamed "prominent Olympic boxing coach."
Leonard writes that when the coach accompanied him as a 15-year-old and another young fighter to a boxing event in Utica, N.Y., in 1971, he had the teenagers take a bath in a tub of hot water and Epsom salts while he sat on the other side of the bathroom. They suspected "something a bit inappropriate" was occurring but did not want to question a strong male authority figure.
Several years later, Leonard describes sitting in a car in a deserted parking lot across from a recreation center, listening intently as the same coach, said to be in his late 40s, explained how much a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics would mean to his future.
He 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."
The coach goes unnamed, but the claim has shocked longtime friends and associates of Leonard, including trainer Angelo Dundee and HBO's Ross Greenburg, and I'm sure will stun many of his fans.
There's not really a whole lot to add to this other than to say that it takes courage for a man like Ray Leonard to write about this, no matter how long he waited. I'm sure the years haven't been particularly easy tucking this away and never saying anything about it, but it's important that he said it.
And Bad Left Hook of course wishes Sugar Ray the best on his 55th birthday, and for many more to come. As Greenburg says, Ray is no sad boxing story, no matter what.