Boxing, like most other sports, remains on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but one of the sports long-running television partners isn’t letting the sweet science’s presence fall by the wayside in lieu of live events. Telemundo’s Friday night standard, Boxeo Telemundo, has continued on with episodes highlighting specific fighters and national rivalries from the network’s boxing partner, All-Star Boxing. And the latest edition set its focus on prolific out gay boxer Orlando Cruz.
The Puerto Rican fighter has enjoyed many memorable moments on Telemundo’s airwaves, racking up an 8-0 record on the network after competing on the 2000 Puerto Rican Olympic boxing team. Some of those moments will be highlighted, including his October 2012 bout against Jorge Pazos. The fight was Cruz’s first after coming out as a “proud gay man” earlier that month.
“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,” Cruz told USA Today at the time. “I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”
Boxeo Telemundo announcers Rene Giraldo and Edgar Lopez welcomed Cruz into the booth to discuss his clash with Pazos and the impact of his coming out. Cruz’s announcement made history as he became the first out gay active professional boxer in the sport’s long history.
Cruz was never able to turn his Telemundo success into a world title, but he made up for that by cementing his status as an LGBTQ advocate and role model in and out of the ring. No moment represents that more than his July 2016 TKO victory over Alejandro Valdez, another of his eight victories on Telemundo broadcasts.
That fight took place in the Orlando, Fla. suburb of Kissimmee, less than 20 miles from the Pulse nightclub where one month earlier a gunman took the lives of 49 people, on Latin Night. Before the fight, a moment of silence and a 49-bell salute honored the Pulse victims. The night ended with Cruz draped in the rainbow flag and the WBO NABO championship belt. The victor dedicated the win to Pulse victims, family members and survivors, most of whom identified as LGBTQ and Latino; Half were Puerto Rican, just like Cruz.