Former Olympian and current featherweight contender, Orlando Cruz (18-2-1, 9 KOs), has come out of the closet and is stepping into the light as boxing's first active, openly gay male fighter.
"I've been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself," Cruz told the media. "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."
The 31-year-old Cruz was a highly-regarded amateur and, along with Miguel Cotto and Ivan Calderon, a member of the 2000 Olympic boxing team representing Puerto Rico in the Sydney, Australia Summer Games. Although Cruz failed to win a medal, his Olympic showing capped a very successful amateur career that closed with a final tally of 179-10.
Four months later, the native of San Juan, Puerto Rico made his professional debut and achieved a 16-0-1 record before suffering back-to-back stoppage losses to Cornelius Lock and Daniel Ponce de Leon in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
The two losses put an end to Cruz's status as an emerging star, but didn't end his career. The 5 ft. 4 fighter would win his next two contests, capture a minor WBO featherweight title, and work his way back into some world rankings. His next bout is scheduled for October 19th in Kissimmee, Florida against Mexico's Jorge Pazos.
Cruz is planning to give a full, in-depth interview about his struggles to Telemundo next week.
There's no doubt that this was an extremely brave move for Cruz to make, especially in the rough and tough, testosterone-driven world of professional boxing. It would be naive to assume that the fallout isn't about to come, though. It remains to be seen what this revelation will do to his drawing power or status as a 126 lb. contender. Hopefully, his job won't be affected by the consequences of his decision.
Ultimately, this comes down to the basic civil right of being able to be who you are without fear of repercussions. Cruz is still a talented fringe contender who has struggled against next-level opposition and none of this will change that fact.
Cruz coming out of the closet is a big deal, but it really shouldn't be. His reputation and livelihood should live and die based solely on what he does in the ring.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico, and a close follower of the sport for more than 30 years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and The BoxingTribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.
Bob Velin, Orlando Cruz becomes boxing's first openly gay man, USA Today