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Out & Proud. Orlando Cruz announces that he is “proud gay man” making him the first openly gay professional boxer. In a statement he said:
“I’ve been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself. I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career. I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”
Orlando Cruz is a Puerto Rican professional boxer. As an amateur, Cruz represented Puerto Rico at the 2000 Olympic Games in Australia. Cruz made his professional debut on December 15, 2000, against Alfredo Valdez in Puerto Rico. Wikipedia
Orlando Cruz, a 2000 Puerto Rican Olympian, has publicly announced he is a “proud gay man,” making him the first openly gay professional boxer. “I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career,” said Cruz.
“I am proud to be Puerto Rican, just like I am proud to be a gay man. But I was sad and angry a long time because there are two doors to death over this one issue. There is suicidal death – when a gay man cannot stand being unaccepted and takes his own life. And there is homophobic murder. In both these situations I want to be a force for change.”
The 2000 Olympic Games were pivotal for boxer Orlando Cruz. After representing Puerto Rico in the games, Cruz launched his professional boxing career. He won a world featherweight title and went nine years without a defeat.
The homophobia that Cruz experienced growing up in Puerto Rico made it difficult for him to accept his sexuality, especially in the world of boxing machismo. Cruz’s internal conflict continued as rumors spread among boxing fans. This tension culminated during his 2008 world title fight. “The spectators bad-mouthed me; they called me a faggot,” Cruz said. “That’s when I realized that something had to change.”
Cruz spent the next few years meeting with a psychologist to work through coming out publicly. In 2012 Cruz became the first professional boxer to come out during his career and one of the first professional athletes to come out while still active. Soon after, he won a major fight wearing rainbow shorts. A year later he married his boyfriend.
In 2013 the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame made Cruz an inaugural inductee. He stated, “I want kids to know that you can be whoever you want to be, including a professional boxer.”
Jorge Pazos (left) and Orlando Cruz trade punches during their fight in Kissimmee, Fla. on Friday. Cruz won via unanimous decision in his first fight since coming out as boxing’s first openly gay fighter. (J. Meric/Getty Images)