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Outsports Male Athlete of the Year: Boxer Orlando Cruz

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The out gay boxer won a North American title and had a world-title shot.

Boxing at Motorpoint Arena
Orlando Cruz went 3-1 in 2016 and took a shot at a world title.
Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images

Pride. That’s the word that comes to mind when we think of Orlando Cruz.

The professional boxer has literally worn his Puerto Rican heritage proudly on his boxing trunks for years. After coming out publicly as gay he added a rainbow flag to his boxing attire, even at one point showing up for a weigh-in wearing just rainbow-colored underwear.

Cruz had a fantastic 2016, winning his first three bouts and claiming the WBO North American Boxing Organization super featherweight title. In July he won his title bout against Alejandro Valdez after dedicating the fight to the victims of the Orlando Pulse massacre. It was his first knockout win in over four years.

In November he had a shot at the world lightweight title. He fell short in that bid, losing in the eighth round in a TKO to defending world champion Terry Flanagan, Cruz’s first loss since 2014.

Still, Cruz, with a 25-5-1 record, is one of the world’s best boxers and will have more title chances in his future.

That he continues to perform at such a high level in the uber-macho sport of boxing, wrapping himself in rainbow flags and welcoming his role as a role model for LGBT athletes the whole time, makes his selection as Outsports’ 2016 Male Athlete of the Year that much sweeter.

Honorable Mentions

Eric Radford. Last year’s winner of this award, Radford has been a finalist each of the last three years. He won his second straight world championship this year with Meagan Duhamel.

Carl Hester & Spencer Wilton. The only two out LGBT men to win an Olympic gold or silver in Rio, they took home silver in equestrian for Great Britain.

Derrick Gordon. The guard became the only player in NCAA history to appear in the men’s basketball tournament for three different teams. He also helped his Seton Hall team win the Big East tournament.

Gus Kenworthy. The professional skier who came out in 2015 won two silver medals at the X-Games earlier this year.

Previous Outsports Male Athletes Of The Year

2015 - Figure skater Eric Radford
2014 - Soccer player Robbie Rogers