Usher on Training for ‘Hands of Stone’: ‘I Took a Lot of Punches’

In order to play Sugar Ray Leonard, Usher tells Howard he had to actually fight

August 22, 2016

He’s a proven hitmaker when it comes to music, but Usher admitted on Monday that he had to take a few hits while training for the role of legendary boxer Sugar Ray Leonard in the new movie “Hands of Stone.” Usher told Howard that, in order to transform into the championship fighter, he had to actually get in the ring and fight.

“Here’s the deal, you can play golf, you can play basketball, you can play baseball, you can play any sport you want. But you can’t play boxing. You gotta do it,” he said.

Usher’s intense training regimen involved working out three times a day, including morning runs and evening spars with amateur fighters. One of the most important details he had to get down was how to move just like Sugar Ray Leonard did in the ring.

“He was so smooth, he just understood how to work the ring and how to make it look super easy…You have to understand mentally how to maneuver through it,” Usher told Howard. Though he stayed light on his feet, the actor admitted to getting hit more than a few times: “I took a lot of punches training for it.”

Despite all his work in the ring, Usher said he was uncertain of whether or not he did a good enough job portraying Leonard, even after filming had wrapped. He told Howard that he didn’t feel comfortable with his performance until receiving Sugar’s approval firsthand.

“This role was definitely very complicated and I knew that,” Usher said. He also told Howard that Sugar Ray Leonard’s wife was the one who ultimately gave approval for Usher to play her husband in the film.

Howard asked if his performance might be good enough to put him in contention for an Academy Award.

“I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” Usher said.

If Usher has it his way, this won’t be the last time we see him up on the big screen. “I’ve always wanted to act. I’ve always wanted to make a transition,” he told Howard. “I’ve done all of these things because I’ve always wanted to be…a full entertainer. I wanted to do it all.”

To watch an exclusive clip from “Hands of Stone” click here. See the full film in theaters Friday, Aug. 26.