In a new book, Boxing Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard reveals a long-held secret: that he was sexually abused as a young fighter by an Olympic boxing coach. He also mentions infidelity, cocaine, and alcohol abuse, and growing up in a home with afflicted with alcohol and domestic violence, the New York Times‘ Harvey Araton reports.
As Araton writes: “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.'”
Once he retired, Araton writes, Leonard fell into bouts of drug use and drinking that his friends attribute to the fact that he wasn’t boxing anymore, and to the trauma of that early assault.
During his career, Leonard won more than $100 million in prize money, and world titles in five different weight classes.