Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz is out, proud and relishing his opportunity to become the first openly gay champion. Cruz was the first professional male boxer to come out as gay while still fighting and his decision to go pubic with his sexuality was a monumental moment because of the brutality of the sport and stereotypes associated with homosexuality. In an interview with the New York Daily News published on September 24, Cruz talks about his opportunity to become champion and wether there are other gay boxers in the sport.
Cruz has a pretty eventual couple of months ahead of him. Now that he is “free” since going public about his sexuality, the top featherweight contender is headed to the alter in his personal life and has a big opportunity awaiting him in his professional career. Before his December wedding to his longtime boyfriend, Jose Manuel, Cruz has a title shot in October for the vacant WBO featherweight belt against Orland Salido. Cruz told the New York Daily News that his dream has come true.
“It’s my big opportunity. It’s my time, my moment. It’s my first dream when I started fighting, as a young boy. My first dream was going to the Olympics and I went to the Olympics in 2000. and then my second dream was to win the belt and become the champion so this is another dream.”
If he wins, it will be a huge personal accomplishment for Cruz, but also one that will send a message to other athletes who may still be afraid to come out as gay. He already knows he is a role model for those who may be struggling with their sexuality, but it is more important to him to be known as a boxer who just happens to be gay and that is the main message athletes who have come out want to establish.
Cruz has definitely been leading by example and when asked wether he knew if there were other boxers who are gay, he gave his honest opinion.
“I think there are other boxers who are gay but they are scared. Maybe with my decision it’s motivation for other boxers and for other athletes to come and say, ‘“i’m gay, I am free.’”
It’s that freedom that has catapulted Orlando Cruz to the top of the boxing world and on the brink of making history.