Orlando Cruz is the first openly gay boxer in the history of the sport. The popular Puerto Rican boxer publicly announced his sexual orientation a week before National Coming Out Day on October 11. The highly accomplished fighter will defend his title when he steps into the ring with Jorge Pazos on October 19 in Florida.
In a media release, the featherweight champion detailed his decision to come out as gay and his views on being a role model for the next generation of boxing hopefuls. Orlando has been boxing for nearly 25 years, Radar Online notes.
Cruz, 31, had this to say in the press release:
“As I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself. I want to try to be the best role model I can 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 and always will be a proud gay man.”
Orlando Cruz went pro not long after boxing during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. He first donned the gloves when he was seven. He has won seven national titles and seven international gold medals. The now openly gay boxer is also ranked No. 4 in the featherweight division by the World Boxing Federation. He has 18-2-1 professional fighting record, ESPN reports.
Emile Griffith, a middleweight and welterweight champion who boxed during the 1950s and 1960s, came out as bisexual after he retired, USA Today reports. Griffith, 74, is reportedly suffering from pugilistic dementia and is not expected to comment on Orlando Cruz’s monumental announcement.