Orlando Cruz is the first professional boxer in history to say, I am “a proud gay man,” while still active in the sport. Cruz is 31 and was born in Puerto Rico. “I’ve been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself” said Cruz, according to Blabbeando. “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.”
Cruz also made the announcement on Twitter, and linked to the article in Blabbeando:
As a boxer, I am proud to tell the World that I have always been and always will be a proud Puerto Rican gay man: bit.ly/T1VN7T
— Orlando Cruz (@ElFenomenoCruz) October 4, 2012
Cruz came out, because “I want to be free and not carry this on and on with myself,” according to the L.A. Times who spoke with the boxer by phone. “I want to let the people see who I really am, to be free, to let people understand.”
He said since his announcement that he’s received “unconditional, 100% support,” including text messages and Twitter and Facebook notes of endorsement from his 2000 Olympic teammate and former multi-division world champion Miguel Cotto and Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin.
“I was physically and mentally prepared for whatever the reaction would be before this, and I can tell you from the response, this will never bother me again,” Cruz said. “I feel comfortable with myself.”
Cruz lost twice within a five-month stretch in 2009 and 2010 to respected fighters Cornelius Lock, who was trained by Roger Mayweather, and current world champion Daniel Ponce De Leon.
He said he hopes his openness breaks down some walls and erases some stereotypes.
“It should show something for itself: that I have courage, I’m a warrior in the ring,” Cruz said. “It should not diminish me. I’ve fought with the best, and I want to be a world champion.”
The Huffington Post adds:
A former Olympian who competed for Puerto Rico at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Cruz has been fighting professionally since December 2000. His next fight is scheduled for Oct. 19 in Kissimmee, Fla., but he will reportedly sit down for an exclusive Telemundo interview before that.
A number of publications have noted that while Cruz is not the first gay man to fight professional, his revelation makes him the first to speak openly about it while being active in the sport. As USA Today noted, Emile Griffith, a welterweight and middleweight champion who fought in the ’50s and ’60s, told Sports Illustrated he was bisexual years after his athletic career had ended.
Among those to praise Cruz’s decision was Bleacher Report columnist Michael Walters. “For Cruz to come out while still actively participating in what has to be considered one of, if not the, most macho sports is truly brave,” Walters wrote.
“I wish I could shake Cruz’s hand. This took a lot of guts,” Cyd Zeigler, Jr., founder of OutSports, the definitive site for news related to LGBT athletes, wrote today:
To be honest, I hadn’t heard of Cruz before last night. But his coming out says a lot. While we hear about athletes in other sports like baseball, basketball and soccer being “afraid” to come out, here’s a guy who literally takes punches to the face finding the courage to be who he is. No one should be more afraid of coming out than a professional boxer whose opponents’ goal is to knock him out cold.
Cruz also has a lot to lose (or be prevented from gaining). Endorsement deals are lucrative, and for someone whose income comes from those deals and winning fights, he has more to lose than many other gay pro athletes.
You can congratulate Cruz via Twitter, where his bio now reads, “Boxeador profesional, ex olímpico, Campeón Latino y cuarto en división pluma a nivel mundial de WBO. Soy y siempre seré un orgulloso hombre gay puertorriqueño,” and Facebook.
Image via Facebook
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.