NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Sugar Ray Leonard says in his upcoming autobiography that he was sexually abused by a coach as a young boxer in the early 1970s.
In “The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring,” the Hall of Famer writes than an unnamed “prominent Olympic boxing coach,” who has since died, assaulted him in a car in a deserted parking lot across the street from a rec center after praising his bright future.
“Before I knew it, he had unzipped my pants and put his hand … on an area that has haunted me for life. I didn’t scream. I didn’t look at him,” Leonard writes. “I just opened the door and ran.’’
Leonard, who turned 55 on Tuesday, won a gold medal at the 1976 Games then went on to capture five world titles in five weight classes.
“I do know that I was in a lot of pain as I chased my dream of winning the gold,” writes Leonard.
The book, written with Michael Arkush, is due out next month. The account of abuse was first reported by The New York Times on Tuesday.
“This is the first time I’ve ever heard that, and I’ve known Ray since he was just a kid,’’ said Dave Jacobs, Leonard’s first trainer as an amateur, according to the paper. “But if that incident did happen, I feel sorry for him in that part of his life and for having to carry that around with him.”
So what prompted the boxing legend to tell his story after so many years?
Leonard writes: “Last year, 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.”
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