Singer-songwriter Usher Raymond is stepping into his role as Sugar Ray Leonard in the biopic, “Hands of Stone.” The movie is based on Roberto Duran, a boxing world champion in four weight divisions in a career that spanned five decades. Duran, whose nickname was “Hands of Stone,” rose from the slums of Panama to defeat an unbeaten Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980.
The film is currently being shot in Panama and will showcase the 30-pounds slimmer 35-year old R&B singer, who had to drop his weight from 180 pounds to Leonard’s typical fighting weight of 146 pounds. This will be his first leading role in a feature film. Usher doesn’t appear to be intimidated by the pressure to represent Leonard in a role that can establish him as a serious actor.
“I’m up for the challenge, and I’m looking forward to it … I think my overall feeling is one of anticipation. It seems like this is a real passion project. It’s a film that everybody is so invested in, and I have the good fortune of having the character I’m playing still around,” he said in an interview prior to the start of production.
Usher also said that he believes he has an advantage in playing Leonard. “I think my dancing will make it easier for me to pick up his moves. I’ve been working on familiarizing myself with the ring, sparring and just understanding how to move.”
In the first photos released from the Panama film set, Usher looks like the legendary boxer.
Showing a high level of cinematic attention to detail, Usher even wore the same colored shorts – white and red – as Sugar Ray did in many of his fights.
The film, which is set to hit theaters in 2014, also stars the Academy Award-winning actor Robert De Niro, who plays Ray Arcel, the first trainer to be inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame and the man behind world boxing champ Roberto Duran’s skills.