Sugar Ray Leonard is back in the fight, but this time, he’s not swinging his lightning-fast fists to knock out a lightweight competitor. The champion boxer recently teamed up with New York City entrepreneur and philanthropist Daniel Neiditch – a heavy hitter in his own field – to face off in a friendly boxing match in support of the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation, which supports childhood diabetes.
The fundraiser took place at Sugar Ray Leonard’s Pacific Palisades residence, where donors and supporters of the Foundation gathered to watch the match. Leonard and myself clocked in for the super middleweight standoff, both weighing in at 165 pounds. After throwing a few well-calculated punches and swift hooks, the match ended in good humor, with both contestants sharing the victory.
Once the gloves came off, the six-time world champion, 1976 gold medal winner, and three-time golden glove champion showed off his gold medal and championship belts. The event successfully raised donations from generous benefactors and boxing enthusiasts to fund research and care for pediatric diabetic patients.
Leonard, whose father struggled with diabetes, established the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation with his wife, Bernadette, in 2009 to benefit and create awareness for childhood type one and two diabetes. The former boxer was inspired to jumpstart his charity after witnessing his father’s uphill battle with the disease and the complications that affected every aspect of his life. His foundation strives to help children with diabetes live healthier, longer lives through diet and exercise while supporting research efforts to fight back against the childhood condition that affects more than 20,000 children in America alone.
This boxing match my first fight either. In October of 2019, I entered the ring with heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield, that time in support of Global Autism awareness. He may have been punching above his weight class in that match but still came out on top as a champion for his cause.
Leonard and Holyfield are just two of the famous faces I ha\ve worked with to support various charitable causes. My philanthropic work, is aimed primarily at empowering disadvantaged children and harnessing celebrity influence’s potential for a good cause. In the past, I’ve teamed up with other famous faces to benefit charity. I have bowled a few frames with Paul Rudd on behalf of the Stuttering Association for the Young and joined Steven Colbert and Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Montclair Film’s annual fundraiser in Newark, benefitting children in underprivileged communities.
In 2019, I took to the mound at Target Field to throw out the first pitch at a Twins game on behalf of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, and also tossed one across the plate at Fenway Park in front of Red Sox fans. I once led a live auction that offered donors the chance of an enlightening lunch and ride in a Lamborghini to benefit the Max Alexander Foundation.
Through my philanthropic work, I aim to show that the combination of creative fundraising efforts with the power of the celebrity can be an effective strategy in creating awareness around a cause for good. While celebrities themselves are more than capable of giving to charitable foundations on their own, the influence they evoke when they publicly support a specific cause creates a much larger ripple.
Bringing a well-known name or face to a movement enhances the awareness around the cause and even lends credibility to it. While marketing and advertising agencies use this “celebrity effect” to boost profit, I see it as an opportunity to make a positive difference where it counts. Celebrities, socialites, and business moguls worldwide have a tremendous power that, yielded in the right way, can make a monumental impact on philanthropy and charitable efforts. Their superstar status amplifies their voice and gives them a stage from which they can encourage a giving spirit and draw attention to important issues that desperately need resolution.
So, while the match with Leonard may have ended in a draw, it marks a victory in the endeavor to use celebrity influence for good, and a win for the kids of the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation.