In an unconventional casting choice, BBC reports that R&B singer/sometimes actor Usher Raymond (better known as Usher) has signed to play legendary boxer Sugar Ray Leonard in the Roberto Durán biopic Hands of Stone. Durán, a Panama native whose nickname acts as the title of the movie, was ranked as the 5th Greatest Fighter of the Last 80 Years by publication The Ring and held four different world titles in four different weight divisions, before officially retiring in 2001 after a car crash.

Leonard’s inclusion in Hands of Stone pertains to a specific bout in 1980 between the two, known as Durán-Leonard II, where after eight rounds, Durán went to his corner and gave up, uttering the now famous words “no mas” (no more). The reason why he quit have always remained a mystery; Durán complained of stomach cramps but others  have said that he was simply tired of being embarrassed by Leonard, who had control of the entire match and was already ahead on the scorecard.

Hands of Stone was announced all the way back in 2010, with Gael Garcia Bernal attached to star as Durán and Al Pacino as his trainer, Ray Arcel, under the direction of Jonathan Jakubowicz. But, according to the BBC article, Robert De Niro has joined the cast, with no mention of Pacino at all — leaving open the possibility that he’s replaced Pacino. ThePlaylist did some extra snooping and found an article on El Universal, which states that Ryan Kwanten and Michelle Rodriguez have also joined the cast, the former playing Durán’s 1972 Madison Square Garden opponent Ken Buchanan. Jakubowicz is still in the director’s chair, and shooting begins soon on location in Panama and New York, with Tego CaldersonOscar Jaenada, and Robin Durán (Roberto’s son) rounding out the announced cast.

Hands of Stone is a movie I definitely want to check out; I’m a closet boxing history buff and the story of Roberto Durán sounds like it’ll make for a good movie. I admit to being unfamiliar with the acting ability of Usher — having never really come into contact with any of his work on-screen — but I’ll hold out hope he can do the legendary Leonard justice. I don’t think Hands of Stone will exactly set the box office on fire, but there’s potential here for a solid character-driven sports biopic and I’m all for it. Movies about the “Sweet Science” rarely let me down.

What do you think of Usher’s casting as “Sugar” Ray Leonard? Are you interested in Hands of Stone as a whole?

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