Kale salad. Steamed spinach. Lean protein-organic, no hormones or antibiotics. No sugar. No carbs. It may sound like the latest celebrity torture diet, but Usher’s catering requests for his Billboard cover shoot come not from vanity but necessity: He must trim down from an already chiseled 176 pounds to the welterweight of 161 pounds in preparation for the role of Sugar Ray Leonard in the Roberto Duran biopic Hands of Stone, with Gael Garcia Bernal and Robert De Niro. This also helps explain his spontaneous hooks and jabs on set today in front of the camera.
The boxing training has clearly seeped into his consciousness. In talking about his seventh album, Looking 4 Myself (due June 12)-a fusion of electro-soul, old-school R&B and modern club anthems both Usher and his label, RCA, feel will expand his music and his audience-the pugilist metaphors come easy: “It’s all about striving for greatness and offering the best I have. It’s no different than a boxer: Standing in front of the person trying to tear his head off, he has to give his all to make it out of that ring.”