World Boxing Organization (WBO) featherweight and former Olympian Orlando Cruz has won many battles in the ring, and with his latest fight, he is hoping to be the victor of as well.
Cruz recently announced that he is a “proud gay man,” making him the first boxer to ever do so while still actively engaged in the sport, according to the Bleacher Report.
Cruz, who is Puerto Rican and ranked the No. 4 featherweight boxer in the world, sent out a statement proclaiming his sexuality and he didn’t mince words:
I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look in to 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.”
Boxing centers around machismo and alpha-male posturing, so with his announcement, Cruz has clearly stepped in to an arena where backlash from other fighters could prove to be severe, according to industry experts.
And there have been a few other athletes who have stepped out of the closet after their careers were long behind them. Former NBA player John Amaechi lived his playing career as a closeted professional athlete and was the first player in the league to publicly out himself in 2007, a couple of years after he retired from the game. Amaechi, who played five NBA seasons with Orlando, Utah, and Cleveland was met with acceptance and hostility from fellow leaguers and received a few death threats from homophobes.
Former NFL players David Kopay (came out in 1975), Esera Tuaolo (2002), Roy Simmons (1992), and Wade Davis (2012), all came out as gay men after their playing careers had fizzled, and they were all ostracized by many on their sports teams.
Still, since stepping in to the ring professionally, the 31-year-old Cruz has maintained an impressive record of 18-2-1 with nine knockouts. The champ’s next fight for the Latino WBO title is scheduled for October 19th against Jorge Pazos.
Now Cruz, who admits he met with psychologists and others before making his big announcement, doesn’t seem to have much trepidation about what his proclamation could mean to his boxing career. The fighter says he has the full support of his family, trainer, and manager and contends, “I developed physically and mentally to take such a big step in my life and in my profession…this sport that is so macho.”