For the ultimately macho sport, an official gay boxer is a huge milestone. Orlando Cruz is the first openly gay boxer while still competing. Puerto Rican Orlando Cruz told The Associated Press coming out of the closer is a relief.
On Thursday, Orlando Cruz went from pro boxer in the featherweight category to a pro boxer that made history. Cruz is No. 4 best featherweight boxer according to the World Boxing Organization and is preparing to fight for the WBO Latino title. Just two weeks ahead the fight, Orlando Cruz became the first boxer to announce he is gay.
“I developed physically and mentally to take such a big step in my life and in my profession, which is boxing, knowing that it would have pros and cons, highs and lows in this sport that is so macho” said boxer Orlando Cruz. “I kept this hidden for many, many years” the 31-year-old athlete added.
Orlando Cruz isn’t the first gay athlete in history, but he is the first to announce he was gay while still competing. Back in the 50s, Emile Griffith was rumored to be gay, and he confirmed it half a century later in 2008.
“I’ve been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself” the Latino boxer told USA Today. “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” Orlando Cruz added. “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 boxer revealed.
Whereas gay rights have come a long way, there are only a few pro athletes that came out of the closet while still active. The NBA or the NFL still don’t have an openly gay player. But civil rights advocators hope that Orlando Cruz’s coming out as gay will help change that.
“It also gives a lot of hope to young gays who can see in him the integrity and bravery to be who you are and face a society that is often intolerant, especially in this type of sport” said Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesperson for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.