Featherweight boxer Orlando Cruz has become the first big-time active professional boxer to come out as gay. According to USA Today, Cruz, who has a strong professional record of 18-2-1, said he wants to be out as his career continues to build:
I've been fighting for more than 24 years and 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 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 was on the Puerto Rico Olympic boxing team in 2000.
His next fight is scheduled for October 19 at the Kissimmee Civic Center in Kissimmee, Florida in which he will defend his WBO NABO title against Jorge Pazos. A win against Pazos should position Cruz for a world title shot.
To be honest, I hadn't heard of Cruz before last night. But his coming out says a lot. While we hear about athletes in other sports like baseball, basketball and soccer being "afraid" to come out, here's a guy who literally takes punches to the face finding the courage to be who he is. No one should be more afraid of coming out than a professional boxer whose opponents' goal is to knock him out cold.
Cruz also has a lot to lose (or be prevented from gaining). Endorsement deals are lucrative, and for someone whose income comes from those deals and winning fights, he has more to lose than many other gay pro athletes.
I wish I could shake Cruz's hand. This took a lot of guts.