Orlando Cruz Comes Out as First Gay Pro Boxer
Orlando Cruz, a Puerto Rican professional featherweight boxer, announced that he was gay on Thursday, which makes him the first openly gay boxer, USA Today reports.
"I’ve been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself," Cruz said. "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, 31, represented Puerto Rico during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
According to FightNews.com, Cruz has been involved with the sweet science since he was just 7 years old. He won seven Puerto Rico national titles while on the Puerto Rican National Team, made his professional debut in December 2000, and did not lose a match until 2009, when Cornelius Lock defeated him. The World Boxing Organization currently ranks him as the fourth best featherweight boxer.
The boxer may face some hardships now that he is out, however. In May, Mann Pacquiao, a world champion boxer, made headlines for denouncing marriage equality, the Associated Press reported.
"I’m not against the gay people," Pacquiao, a Filipino congressman, said. "I’m not condemning them. ... I have a cousin (who is) gay. I have relatives (who are) gay. I have a lot of friends (who are) gay, so I’m not condemning gays. What I said is I’m not in favor of same-sex marriage."
The fighter’s announcement comes when pro sports leagues are experiencing a dramatic shift on the gay community. The sport, like several others sports, has been known to be homophobic but a wave of new and young athletes are voicing their support for gay rights and marriage equality. Among those sports stars are Baltimore Ravens center Brendon Ayanbadejo and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who both strongly support LGBT rights, EDGE reported.
In 1996, heavyweight boxer Tommy Morrison made headlines when he tested positive for exposure to HIV. Various state boxing commissions wouldn’t let him into the ring, but in 2007, he began a comeback. He has since been dogged with legal problems unrelated to his HIV status.