R&B crooner Usher is stepping into the boxing ring.
The Confessions singer is readying his role as celebrated fighter Sugar Ray Leonard in the new biopic, “Hands of Stone“.
The film, based on the life of Roberto Duran, a world champion played by Edgar Ramirez, will be directed by Venezuelan director Jonathan Jakubowicz and will also star Oscar-winning actor Robert De Niro as Duran’s trainer Ray Arcel.
Roberto Duran is a champion in four weight divisions whose career spans five decades. Duran defeated an unbeaten Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980, only to lose the rematch several months later in the infamous “no mas” fight.
Usher recently spoke with Billboard via telephone about the role:
“You couldn’t find a more stylized boxer than Sugar Ray Leonard. He was an incredible motion guy, the way he moved around the ring, and 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 ring.
“He had such incredible discipline, and he was flashy and classy at the same time,” said Usher, who’s been studying videos from Leonard’s boxing days. “I want to be as passionate and dedicated in preparing for this role as he was every time he stepped into the ring.
“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.”
Usher reportedly still has about 25lbs to drop before filming begins in October. The film is set for an early 2014 release.