PHILADELPHIA (CNN) – Professional wrestler Leati Joseph Anoa’i, better known by his stage name Roman Reigns, has announced that he is stepping away from the ring due to an ongoing fight against leukemia.
Reigns, a former football player who has since become one of World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) most popular personalities, announced Monday that he had been living with cancer for 11 years and that it had returned.
He said he would relinquish his claim to the WWE’s Universal Championship as he focuses on battling leukemia.
“When I was 22 years old, I was diagnosed with this. And very quickly I was able to put it in remission. But I’m not going to lie, that was the hardest time in my life. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have any money, I didn’t have a home and I had a baby on the way,” Reigns said in an emotional speech Monday in Rhode Island to kick off WWE’s Monday Night Raw program.
He thanked the WWE for giving him a chance after his football career had ended.
“I want to make one thing clear — by no means is this a retirement speech,” Reigns said. “I will beat this and I will be back, so you will see me very very soon.”
The crowd cheered and chanted “Roman, Roman” as he placed his Universal Title belt on the floor and left the ring.
Some of the biggest names in wrestling offered their support.
“You have given us your everything including a courageously vulnerable moment. We, your WWE family, give you all of our love and support,” John Cena tweeted.
“Stunned. I liked and respected him from the moment I met him. Sending my very best wishes and prayers for you, Joe,” Mick Foley tweeted.
WWE also tweeted video of fellow wrestlers offering hugs and words of encouragement for Reigns after his speech.
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