I was watching the video of his presentation at Penn State this past week. It makes you think of alot of different things. I thought of the timing of the abuse. It happened around the time that he was training for the Olympics. He was a powerful man, a powerful boxer. As any former Olympian could tell you, training for and getting through the rigors of the trials requires a supreme mental and physical effort. It requires toughness. You have to overcome the best amateur athletes in your sport. Sugar Ray did just that. He got his gold medal.
In that journey he lost something much more precious than medals and accolades. He was betrayed by those he trusted the most. There are few trusts more sacred than that of a student and mentor. It is especially sacred to the student because the student is exposing all the vulnerabilities to this one person. For men, there are few opportunities to exhibit our vulnerable side to another man. Sports is one such ‘socially accepted’ avenue.
When you take away that sacred avenue it permanently alters our ability to function in the world. We can’t get that back. We can build something new, but it will never be what it was.
Ray Leonard, the fighter, was abused sexually. Not Ray Leonard, the child. This is the crucial part for society to absorb. Male abuse has nothing to do with our ability to defend ourselves. It has to do with trust because when you trust someone you will do anything for them.
Ray Leonard, the fighter, had a child at home to protect. He was struggling to pay the bills. To make ends meet. To “pay for diapers” as he put it. He was vulnerable.
This notion that only children and women can be victims of sexual abuse is a lie. It is perpetrated by a society that fears the vulnerability in men. Finding that fragile nature within us is the only way to heal our wounds. It allows us to be truly powerful.
That Sugar Ray Leonard that took the stage is a strong man. He told his truth. Believe it.