When gay boxer Orlando Cruz came out publicly in 2012, he was a rising star in the boxing ring. Now his star is as bright as ever on the eve of a bout that could make him the first openly gay man to win a boxing world title.
On Saturday he will take on WBO lightweight champion Terry Flanagan for the world title. Cruz previously had a world featherweight championship bout in 2013, losing to Orlando Salido. Salido was later stripped of his title because he couldn’t make weight.
The historic nature of Cruz and his title fight isn’t lost on the boxer.
"It's a big moment for me, my community and my country," Cruz told the BBC. In addition to being a proudly out gay man, he is equally proud of his Puerto Rican heritage.
"It's very important, wonderful, that other people are interested in me as a role model. People have told me I'm an inspiration for coming out of the closet. They want to be the same as me - not scared, only happy. I want that other [gay] athletes are not scared to walk into the society. Don't be scared. Be happy with your life, and happy with your decision. All people are the same."
That’s what we want too. Athletes like Cruz being out and succeeding are by far the most powerful tools in helping other athletes find the courage to come out and be their true selves.
A world championship for Cruz — in a sport like boxing — would be another powerful step.