Orlando Cruz of Puerto Rico, the WBO No. 4-ranked featherweight boxer in the world, came out on Wednesday, Oct. 3, proclaiming himself a “proud gay man,” according to Bob Velin of USA Today.
Cruz reportedly stated the following:
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.
Although he is surely not the first gay man to fight professionally, he is the first to open up about his sexuality while being an active fighter.
Cruz was a highly decorated amateur fighter and a member of the 2000 Puerto Rico Olympic team. Since entering the professional ranks, he has compiled an impressive record of 18-2-1 with nine knockouts and is the current WBO NABO featherweight champion.
Cruz’s next fight is scheduled for Oct. 19 against Jorge Pazos (20-4, 13KOs).
Many athletes have come out after their careers have ended, like former NBA player John Amaechi and former NFL players Esera Tuaolo, David Kopay and Roy Simmons.
Throughout his career, former welterweight and middleweight champion Emile Griffith was rumored to be gay. Long after he had retired, Griffith finally admitted what most in boxing had known for years in his 2008 book titled Nine Ten and Out! The Two Worlds of Emile Griffith.
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.