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A chance encounter with Sugar Ray Leonard last year led to the boxing legend giving a passionate speech of encouragement to children at a school in New Zealand this week.

The star is in the country for a number of charity events, including a special boxing tournament as part of Queenstown’s Winter Festival.

This week’s school trip came about after Leah Crawford, who runs an after-school care program in the small town of Ngaruawahia in the North Island, saw Leonard at a service station during the star’s trip to the country last year.

With a sip of coffee and a little courage, Crawford decided to approach the legend: “I don’t do boxing but I love and admire the work you do with youth,” she said to a slightly startled Leonard. “Would you come back here and talk to our kids?”

“I’d just come from talking at a school in Hamilton,” said Leonard. "We stopped at a gas station and this lady walked past my security guys, and my sons, and she said ‘you need to come to my schools, our kids need to hear from you’. She didn’t take no for an answer. She’s a real go-getter. She told me exactly what her vision was, and her concerns for the kids in her community.

“That’s where my heart is, it’s for kids. I’m a parent and a grandparent first before I’m a boxer or celebrity. I worry about my kids too.”

Crawford spent the next few months approaching local businesses for sponsorship to bring the star back to the country. Her work paid off this week when Leonard spoke to 500 children from two schools in the district, as well as attended a charity dinner and lunch.

Crawford’s Fighting For Our Kids campaign gets children – many of which are underprivileged – involved in positive after-school activities.

“The kids here are no different from any other,” she said. “We just need to avoid the boredom and non-supervision which can lead to violence, drugs and gangs.”

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