For years now, rumors have been swirling accusing champion boxing Hall of Famer and former “Dancing With the Stars” contestant Sugar Ray Leonard, 55, of having an alternative sexual appetite. He’s been lumped in with what some believe is an underground group of high-profile black Hollywood men that are allegedly secretly living alternative lifestyles. Now, according to the New York Times, the heartthrob boxer has revealed that he was inappropriately touched by his male boxing coach when he was 17 years of age.
His, what some would consider, shocking revelation will certainly add fuel to the fire of all the rumors. Where there’s smoke …?
Those close to Leonard have commented through the media that they had never heard a peep about the abuse and were very surprised to hear it now. And he still refuses to discuss it freely, as he’s saving his comments until he officially begins promoting his forthcoming book about his life, The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring.
According to Boston.com, in the book he speaks of being flattered and filled with hope, — as any young athlete would be — about his Olympic prospects. 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 also writes: “I do know that I was in a lot of pain as I chased my dream of winning the gold.’’
There have been a few “coming outs” lately from black males in the limelight (CNN’s Don Lemon) that have dealt with abuse. But, though sexual abuse should certainly be taken very seriously and prevented at all costs, such years-later revelations are becoming somewhat mundane, especially when tied to books and movies which will yield financial gain. Leonard’s alleged abuser is now deceased.
Not to undermine the extreme bravery required to reveal such painful secrets, but dare I say that capitalistic intentions are prompting the “it happened to me” parade? I’ll avoid that for now and take the higher road by saying that it’s a very good time to draw from these situations the very necessary open — or at least cracked — door to dialogue more about that which is woefully taboo in the black community — homosexuality and sexual abuse. Children are suffering in confusion due to these issues and now is the time to address the issues head-on.
Leonard’s book is due out next month.