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  “Sugar” Made “Dancing” Sweeter

By Barbara Pinnella
Photos courtesy of Dancing With the Stars

 

Every boxing fan knows the name “Sugar” Ray Leonard. Well, that’s not exactly accurate, for one does not have to be a boxing enthusiast to know of this man. Soft-spoken, talented and handsome, Leonard is one of the most recognizable and well-respected fighters today.

When I spoke with him this time, I wanted to talk about his stint on the ABC show, “Dancing With the Stars”. I then discovered that he, along with writer Michael Arkush, had just written a book, “The Big Fight”. The book is due out in early June, and I quickly realized that two articles were necessary here. So welcome to part one, as it were, of my interview with “Sugar” Ray Leonard.

After all of the fights Leonard has had and all of the tough, tough opponents he has faced, Ray was not immune to the nerves of being on “Dancing” and he was not afraid to say so. But ultimately he walked through that fear, as he has walked through all other adversities.

“As petrified as I was and as scary as it was, to do something that you normally don’t do – it’s frightening but it’s such an amazing experience. To have that feeling of hopelessness. To say to yourself ‘I can’t do this’ and get frustrated, angry, and emotional, and then after dancing two routines and kind of pull it off, it’s such a sense of accomplishment. It’s such a mind thing, it’s a mental accomplishment.”

I wondered if he made any friends on the show. “Oh, I had great conversations with everyone, but particularly with Petra. She’s a sweetheart. Also with Ralph. That cast was just an amazing cast. They were good people. But listen,” he laughed, “you’ve got to be a total asshole if I can’t get along with you!

“My ego came out strong in the ring, but I’m a people person. I like conversing with people and socializing. You’ve got to be a jerk if I don’t like you.”

Leonard told me a little story about one of the other contestants on the show, WWE wrestler Chris Jericho. “I went to my trailer one day and there was a basket from him. In it were candies and cookies, little knick-knacks, and two pictures of me and Anna. That’s well thought out. It was so nice, that’s class.”

And does he have those pictures in his house? “Oh, trust me, I do.”

Of course there would have been no competition for Ray without his partner, professional dancer Anna Trebunskaya. It was Anna who held it together for Leonard. Make no mistake, she was not an easy teacher, and would not make life simple for him.

“You know, when I worked with Anna there were times when I was really upset with myself. I would really get mad sometimes because I couldn’t do it, and she kept pushing me and pushing me. She kept saying, ‘You can do it, you can do it!’

It wasn’t just a matter of doing something out of his comfort zone. “Time always scares me,” he said. “Not enough time to learn the routine, to learn the choreography. You’ve got a week, then three days, then two days. And then sometimes I didn’t get it until the day of the show! It could take that long to come together – nerve-wracking!

“Then I started to accept it. The first time I was petrified. The second OK, but the third I was like, ‘Yeah, OK, we got it, we got it!’”

But he was not the only one in the Leonard household to speak highly of Anna. “I’ve never heard my wife boast about anyone as much as she’s talked about Anna – how beautiful she is, how classy she is. She is such a nice person.”

Maybe this experience will be the beginning of book number two. No pressure, Ray! Speaking of that, look for the second part of my interview with “Sugar” Ray Leonard in the near future.

I want to thank him so much for his time, and thanks also to Katie and Steve.


Be safe and God Bless,
Viva La Raza,
Barb.



 

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