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.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.
An unnamed Olypmic coach assaulted Leonard in a parking lot, where "he had unzipped my pants and put his hand, then mouth, on an area that has haunted me for life," the New York Times reports.
Leonards describes multiple cases of sexual abuse in his upcoming book. Both abusers passed away decades ago. Leonard says he never confronted them, instead wound up trying to deal with memories when he was drinking.
At a gym bearing Leonard's name in Prince George's county, some who knew the boxer said they didn't know about the abuse.
Janks Morton started working with leonard in 1969 in the Palmer Park community center. Leonard's mentor says he'd never heard of the abuse and doesn't really care to now.
"It's personal so I think it should stay that way," Morton said. Morton wouldn't venture to guess who the alleged abuser was. In his book, Leonard also writes the unnamed coach made him and another teen bathe as the man watched.
"Man, he taught me how to throw the first jab," said Michael Massey, who went to high school with Sugar Ray. He also first heard about the sex abuse Tuesday night.
"He'd (have) tried to deal with them demons within. You know, and the best way that I think he dealt with 'em probably during that time is in the ring," Massey said.
One young fighter says he's inspired by Leonard's perhaps most powerful move yet. "It lets you know that no matter what happens, you can basically make it if you put 100 percent into it," said boxer Francoi Scarboro.
"He's an inspiration since he's coming out of the area so I just hope that I can follow his footsteps," said Scarboro.
Despite his successes, he couldn't escape the haunting experience, Leonard writes. "I do know that I was in a lot of pain as I chased my dream of winning the gold," he writes.
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. Leonard, who turned 55 Tuesday, has been competing on Dancing with the Stars.
With reporting from the Associated Press and ABC7's Julie Parker.