Pacific Palisades’ new Honorary Mayor Sugar Ray Leonard was backstage at ABC's Dancing with the Stars preparing to perform when he shared his motivations for being on the popular show.
The former boxing champion said he wants people tuning into the 12th season of the reality competition to be aware of a cause close to his heart, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Sugar Ray Leonard's commitment to the cause of Juvenile Diabetes stems from his own personal experience, he said.
"My father's diabetes and care was the turning point for me to go pro,” said Leonard.
A longtime advocate for diabetes awareness, Leonard testified at a congressional hearings and met with Nevada Senator Harry Reid, along with representatives from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Children’s Congress back in 2009, as a part of the annual “Children’s Congress” for the JDRF.
"I also have the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation that my wife, Bernadette, and I founded and we also support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and its annual Walk for a Cure," he said. "Plus community outreach to help with making accessible housing, healthcare services, and educational services and job training available for those in need."
When testifying at Congress in 2009, Leonard revealed his personal struggle with the disease that affects 25.8 million children and adults in America, which is 8.3 percent of the population, according
to the American Diabetes Association.
He cited the financial strain that the overwhelming cost of diabetes and its numerous associated complications put on his family, as well as the burden it places on the national health care system. In 2007, diabetes costs exceeded 24 billion in his home state of California, he said.
"I also want to keep showing my support for the JDRF and hope my footwork here helps that awareness too," said Leonard. "This show and all the people on it are wonderful," said Leonard.
Leonard dazzled the judges with his partner Anna Trebunskaya in their second week's improved performance, doing the upbeat Jive. Despite a rocky performance last Tuesday, Leonard is still in the game and he and his partner are set to compete against 10 couples next Tuesday.
In addition to the title of dancer and the six world titles he won in his career as a boxer, Leonard takes on his new title of honorary mayor in June. The boxing legend will replace The Love Boat actor Gavin MacLeod, 79, who will have been in office for a record five years by this June.