He’s lost at least 30 pounds, has grown an Afro and – thanks to the miracle of modern film makeup – covered up his many tattoos.
And in the first photos released from the Panama film set of Hands of Stone Usher looks like a ringer for legendary boxer Sugar Ray Leonard. The months of hard work the 35-year-old R&B singer has put into transforming his body to look like the five-weight world boxing champ has clearly paid off.
Showing an unprecedented level of cinematic attention to detail, Usher even wore the same colored shorts – white and red – as Sugar Ray in many of his fights. Sugar Ray Leonard, now 57 and long retired from the ring, was the first boxer to win more than $100 million in purses.
He also won titles in five weight classes, from welterweight to light heavy weight. Hands Of Stone will tell the story of legendary Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran, whose first two fights with Sugar Ray are two of the most legendary of the 1980s.
Although Usher has been in feature films, including The Faculty and has acted on Broadway, it was his dancing ability that caught the eye of the films’ producers.
“What he did as a boxer is no different from what I do as a dancer,” Usher said in an interview with Men’s Health after he won the role. ‘I train like an athlete every day, believe it or not.’
Usher and Sugar Ray are also both 5′ 10” and look virtually identical in the new movie stills. Nonetheless, Usher was forced to ‘make weight’ and drop from 180 pounds to Leonard’s usual fighting weight of 146 pounds. ‘I’ve been cruising my weight down….’ he said this summer during grueling training, which included boxing for hours a day and cycling the 20 mile return trip from his home in Atlanta to the boxing gym.
The day after Thanksgiving, Usher tweeted a photo of his abs while on break from the set. ‘Flexin Friday in Panama’ he said over a close up of his much leaner six pack.