Sugar Ray Leonard Talks ‘Real Steel’ Boxing Gig & Branding After Retirement

The boxing great gets his second wind as a hybrid entrepreneur training Hugh Jackman for latest role

Leonard instructs Hugh Jackman on fight techniques while on set of Real Steel

What has been your biggest asset in transitioning your career post-boxing?

Businesses have liked working with me because of my character. I attend meetings on time, have good communication skills, and I am personable. I don’t burn any bridges in the business relationships I have built over the years and I think that has helped me to continue to be called on for work.

What has been the most significant work since your retirement?

Being a service to others. I have been so happy to see that my autobiography [The Big Fight: My Life in and Out of the Ring] has helped impact so many people’s lives. Though, at first, writing my book became cathartic and therapeutic for me, while on my book tour, I had a chance to see how it was helping change the lives of several others. I talked about being sexually abused as a child, being an alcoholic and a drug user while trying to be a great dad and husband. There was a lot of trepidation in sharing these personal areas of my life because no one wants to admit they are not the best at anything. I was not ready to talk about my past until I saw Todd Bridges on The Oprah Winfrey Show, sharing the grim details about his life with the world.

When I began to share my story candidly, it was like a 30-year weight was lifted off my shoulders. I would go to book signings across the country and all types of men, whether in business suits or with tattoos, would come up to me, and hug me or shed a tear, thanking me for helping them cope with their past. I did not know the issues I faced were so prevalent among men until I wrote my book.

What options are there for most boxers outside of the ring to sustain an economically sound lifestyle?

There are several options outside the ring, such as motivational speaking, acting, consulting and the like. The most important thing that boxers must do is use common sense. Boxing is a poor man’s sport. Many that go into boxing are not very “seasoned” and do not know how to manage their finances. They must realize that if they have a lot of money coming in [from boxing,] and they have a lot going out, they must make sure they can sustain that lifestyle once the money is not coming in for their athleticism anymore. My lawyer and friend, Mike Trainer, had me as the sole stockholder in Sugar Ray Leonard, Inc. from the very beginning. I was also fortunate enough to have him as a guide and for people to see me on television and request my services. Boxers must see themselves as a company and use wisdom in planning for their future.

Do you have any business mentors?

I have a lot of friends and celebrities that I learn from regarding good or bad investments and business deals. I even considered being on The Apprentice but decided to do Dancing with the Stars instead.

What’s next on the horizon for you?

I’m going to keep moving and enjoying life! I will also continue to build the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation benefitting juvenile diabetes research and am very excited about the work we are doing in the community.

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