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Sugar Ray Leonard Opens Up About His 'Deadly' Battle Outside The Boxing Ring

It became Leonard vs. Leonard.

Sugar Ray Leonard may be among the biggest names in boxing, but 1980's "Best Boxer of the Decade" says that one of his toughest battles actually took place outside the ring.

As the 59-year-old tells "Oprah: Where Are They Now?", he was essentially living two different lives during his legendary boxing career.

"There was a part of me that's Ray Leonard, that's a good man, that's an honest man," he says. "And there's Sugar Ray Leonard, who is ego-driven, who's a tough SOB in the ring, who had money, who had fame -- and at some point, didn't really appreciate it and took advantage of that."

The only thing that rivaled Sugar Ray Leonard's boxing success was his charm, but he says that there was also a much darker s
The only thing that rivaled Sugar Ray Leonard's boxing success was his charm, but he says that there was also a much darker side to his personality.

In his heyday, Leonard had refused to acknowledge that his "ego-driven" side even existed. 

"My first wife, Juanita, she always said, 'You're two different people,'" Leonard says. "I'd just get angry about that. And go and have a drink."

Unbeknownst to the public, Leonard had begun to abuse alcohol -- and also turned to hard drugs after an eye injury forced him into a short-lived retirement in 1982. Leonard says he used for the next few years, stopping his drug use in 1986. Alcohol, however, remained a part of his life.

I always knew I had a problem. Just never admitted it to myself. I never believed it. That's deadly.

In the 1990s, after Leonard got divorced and married his current wife, Bernadette, he began to realize the toll his drinking was taking on his life. 

"I would wake up and not remember what the hell just happened that night," Leonard says. "I always knew I had a problem. Just never admitted it to myself. I never believed it. That's deadly. That's wrong."

Leonard says he quit drinking nearly 10 years ago, after waking up one day and realizing that his alcohol use had gotten out
Leonard says he quit drinking nearly 10 years ago, after waking up one day and realizing that his alcohol use had gotten out of control.

In his 2011 memoir, Leonard detailed his past struggles with substance abuse, and has since spoken out about the realities of being an alcoholic. He says he stopped drinking in 2006.

"Nine years ago, I woke up," Leonard say today. "Life couldn't be better."

Leonard opens up about his personal life, his family and the moment he thought his career was over on this weekend's episode of "Oprah: Where Are They Now?", airing Saturday, Feb. 6, at 10 p.m. ET on OWN. 

 

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