In an unprepared address to a sexual abuse conference at the university where convicted sex offender Jerry Sandusky was employed, the former welterweight champion gave an emotional 30-minute talk, saying, "I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse," then declaring, "I'm going to be the poster child. I'm going to speak up, and speak out," the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday
Although Leonard's 2011 autobiography briefly mentions two incidents of sexual abuse, one by an Olympic coach, he said he was not motivated to act until the Sandusky case made headlines.
"I cried for those victims," he said, adding it was his appearance on Oprah Winfrey's television program, speaking about his ordeal, that convinced him to take a higher-profile role in combating the sexual abuse of young people.
"I'm a world championship boxer. I was on 'Dancing with the Stars.' But to be known as one of the people who led the way to eradicate child sexual abuse, that would be the greatest accomplishment of my life," he said at the end of his remarks.
Conference organizer and child psychologist Kate Staley said the gathering was part of Penn State's effort to turn the school's tragedy into national leadership on an issue that remains cloudy despite major cultural changes in society.