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Openly gay boxer Orlando Cruz has been embraced since coming out

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Orlando Cruz (Photo: Juan Luis Martinez Perez)

In the days since featherweight boxer Orlando Cruz has come out as gay, the response within the sport has been positive, and that includes those who just shrugged. That's a good thing and shows that Cruz made the right call to be open about who he is. Tim Dahlberg of the AP has a nice profile of Cruz and his coming out.

The best fighter in Puerto Rico, Miguel Cotto, reached out to offer encouragement and support to his former Olympic teammate. Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin — who came out himself two years ago — sent him a text offering the same.

And the rest of the boxing world more or less just yawned.

“People say, ‘It’s OK, Orlando, don’t worry,’” Cruz said in a phone conversation from Puerto Rico “They tell me, ‘It’s your life and we support you.’ ”

Cruz, 31, is 18-2-1 and next fights on Oct. 19 as he hopes to once again be able to contend for a world title. And he doesn't care what any opponent thinks.

“I don’t care if the other guy is homophobic,” Cruz said. “My focus and concentration will always be on winning the fight. I am hungry now, very hungry to become a world champion.”

Interestingly, Cruz consulted with psychologists and his family before finally deciding to come out as "a proud gay man." This shows he put a lot of thought into his announcement, made in a news release. It reflects a maturity and common sense of someone who felt he had more to gain by being open than staying in the closet. And he clearly intends to make a difference given what he said in his statement:

"I also want kids who suffer from bullying to know that you can be whoever you want to be in life, including a professional boxer [and] that anything is possible and that who you are or whom you love should not be impediment to achieving anything in life."

Being in an individual sport, Cruz has only himself to rely on, making it a bit easier than a team sport athlete facing a group dynamic. On the other hand, he is coming out in a sport whose aim is to literally punch the lights out of your opponent, so that takes more guts than being a backup quarterback or seldom-used middle reliever. The more I read about Cruz, the more impressed I am.