Q: Your autobiography, The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring, reveals that you were sexually molested as a teenager by older men in the amateur-boxing trade. What moved you to break your silence?
A: I kept that to myself for decades. Then last year I heard actors Todd Bridges and Tyler Perry talking about similar experiences, and it seemed they felt better getting that toxin out of their systems. It happened, I went through it, and I dealt with it. And you know something? Life goes on.
Photo by Deborah Wald
Q: Your life seemed split between aggressive boxer "Sugar Ray Leonard" and the more vulnerable "Ray Leonard." I'm tempted to say "schizophrenic."
A: That actually is the best term. I'm 55 now, and I've settled down, but when I look at the old photos on the walls of my gym, I have to ask, " Who is that guy Sugar Ray Leonard?" It's like I'm Sybil and he's another personality. I'm not that confrontational; I'm quiet, reserved, and laid-back. So there really are two personalities — no question.
Q: So which Ray Leonard was on Dancing with the Stars?
A: Oh, definitely Sugar Ray! [Laughs.] Ray was petrified, but Sugar Ray put on a good show. On the first day of rehearsals I asked myself, "Oh, man, what did I do?" — because my mind was telling my body to move left, and my body was saying, "No, no — just go get some coffee."
Q: How will fans recall you?
A: Not a day goes by that I don't hear "¡No más!" [Spanish for "No more!": the plea of boxing opponent Roberto Duran in 1980]. Someone always comes up in an airport, puts up their hands, and says, "¡No más!" I even heard it in the Australian Outback — and it's been 31 years!