In his forthcoming autobiography, “The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring,” which will be published in June by Viking, former boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard alleges that he was sexually abused as a young fighter by an unnamed “prominent Olympic boxing coach,” the New York Times reports.
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.”
He adds that when he first decided to discuss the incident in the book, which is co-authored with Michael Arkush, he offered a version in which the abuser stopped before there was actual contact.
“That was painful enough,” Leonard writes. “But 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.”
Through his publisher, Leonard, who turned 55 on Tuesday, declined to comment (to the Times), saying that he will begin doing publicity for the book in June.
Even victims can be smart businessmen.