Sugar Ray Pulls No Punches in New Autobiography

By Donel DeFreese 06/10/11

"I was 25... in a state of limbo—I resorted to a band aid which was cocaine and alcohol.”

Boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard is garnering a lot of attention for the shocking revelation that he was sexually abused in his teens by a famous Olympic boxing coach. In his new book, The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring, Leonard says that the event which has “haunted me for life” led him to abuse drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism up until five years ago. Two themes run throughout The Big Fight. The first centers on Leonard’s illustrious ring exploits; the second details a life spiraling out of control in a haze of fame, alcohol, and drugs:

If I could handle Benitez, Duran, and Hearns, I could certainly handle a little white powder… The high I got from cocaine was incredible. Coke made me feel like I did in the ring, in complete control. I became funny, engaging, articulate. Coke made the anxieties go away. I was Sugar Ray again. Except [the anxieties] kept coming back. Which meant I needed more coke. Lots more. One friend I used as a supplier estimates that I spent a quarter of a million dollars per year on coke.

Talking to CNN about the book, the champion also spoke of his split personalities—Ray, who was full of fear and loathing, and Sugar Ray, the fearless boxer. He said: “Sugar Ray came when I was 14—my goal was to win the Olympics. I started believing the hype of who I was too much.” After his forced retirement due to a detached retina in 1982, Ray hit rock bottom. He added: "I was 25... in a state of limbo—I resorted to a band aid which was cocaine and alcohol.”

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