Tonight's pay-per-view bout between Juan Manuel Marquez and Timothy Bradley will be at the forefront of the boxing world. This is a prizefight that is intriguing to fight fans, but the undercard match for the WBO featherweight title between Orlando Cruz (20-2-1, 10 KOs) and Orlando Salido (39-12-2, 27 KOs) is the fight that is going to make history.
Orlando Cruz is fighting for more than a title belt—he's fighting for gay rights.
Despite the strides that the United States has made in the area of gay rights, there are still very few gay professional athletes who feel comfortable enough to reveal their sexuality. This fear and anxiety gay pro athletes are made to feel over their sexual orientation shows that our country is still far away from where it needs to be in the realm of gay rights.
One year ago, Orlando Cruz made waves when he announced to the world that he is gay. Not only is he one of the few athletes to come out of the metaphorical closet, but he is the only one who has come out in a sport with as much machismo as boxing where homophobia is rampant.
Several former professional athletes have stated they are gay, but very few have had the courage to come out during the pinnacle of their careers.
Orlando Cruz did just that.
During the 1960s and '70s, boxing Hall of Famer Emile Griffith hid his sexuality because he feared how his sport and society would react.
In 1992 while leaving a gay bar, Griffith fell victim to a hate crime and was beaten by a group of men. He almost lost his life in this attack. This event showed that even though we view our country as progressive in terms of gay rights, that anti-gay prejudice is still unfortunately prevalent.
When Orlando Cruz steps into the ring tonight, he is fighting for the legacy of Emile Griffith and many other professional athletes who have felt the need to hide their sexual orientation due to the ignorant intolerance of others.
It isn't important if Orlando Cruz walks away with the featherweight title or not. He's already a champion and is making a bigger impact on the world than most boxers ever have.