"Sugar" Ray Leonard Says He Will Be Poster Child for Sex Abuse Victims

The boxer said he hopes to inspire others to report their abuse.

Posted: 10/31/2012 03:21 PM EDT

When "Sugar" Ray Leonard revealed that he was sexually abused as a youth in his 2011 autobiography, people were surprised and saddened to hear the news. A year later, the former boxer is hoping to use his fame and experiences to help other victims of sexual abuse come forward and report their abusers.

During a conference on child sex abuse at Penn State earlier this week, Leonard said he wants to be the poster child for sex abuse victims. "Trust is a very sacred thing, especially for young people, kids, or a young boxer, so I trusted these people, these individuals who impacted my life," said Leonard. "They told me everything I wanted to hear, and more."

Writes Reuters:

The former champion said he used drugs and alcohol to "numb" his shame of being a victim of child sexual abuse.

"I beat myself up for years," said Leonard as the two-day conference got underway with Hurricane Sandy quickly approaching Pennsylvania.

Now Leonard said he wants to step into the spotlight as a leader in the fight against child sex abuse in the hopes it will help other victims find the courage to report crimes to police.

"I'm going to be the poster child. I don't care," Leonard said to applause.

"I will be that leader. I will stand right there and say, 'Yes, something must be done now. Not later, now,'" Leonard said.

It was in his autobiography, The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring, that Leonard, 56, said an unnamed "prominent Olympic boxing coach" abused him when he was 15 years old. Leonard retired from boxing after winning titles in five weight classes.

Penn State is trying to move on after former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys through his Second Mile charity for at-risk youth. Earlier in October, he was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.


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(Photo: Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

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