It could be a moment in history when Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz steps in the ring on Saturday night to take on Orlando Salido for the WBO featherweight title. Cruz, who came out as gay last October, would become the first openly gay boxer to win a title if he defeats Salido. As USA Today Sports reports on October 11, it’s no big deal for those in the boxing world.
So why is it a big deal in the LGBT community? Cruz coming out last October defeated a stereotype, and most importantly he is an athlete competing to the highest level who happens to be gay. Tennis legend Billie Jean King referenced Cruz’s coming out as a monumental step for other athletes who may be afraid of the social impact coming out as gay may have on their career. For King, Cruz represents an opportunity to educate.
“Boxing is such a macho sport, and for Orlando Cruz to come out and still be competing is a major step forward for the LGBT community and for society in general. Athletes like Orlando are so visible, anytime a gay athlete allows us to enter a new arena gives us a chance to educate one more person and step over one more hurdle.”
What is just as important is the acceptance Cruz has received which is why Bob Arum, the Top Rank chairman and Hall of Fame promoter, points out. He said during a news conference on Thursday that “the world has changed”, correlating today’s culture to a past societal attitude where Cruz wouldn’t have been as accepted.
“If I put on a fight with (Cruz) then, there would be a thousand protesters saying it should be boycotted because it involved a boxer who had a different sexual orientation.”
He pointed out that the world has changed for the better, but unfortunately there is still a long way to go. As long as there are still people frowning upon homosexuality, every accomplishment and every revelation will still have great importance because as King said, they present opportunities of education.
Orlando Cruz has become a big deal mostly because of his courage in a “macho sport” where he hears gay slurs all the time. But still, he remains focus on accomplishing his dream. It is a dream that may come true Saturday night. It is also his chance to make history and that may not have happened if he didn’t come out.
“I feel very free and happy having come out. I am happy with the support all of the people have given me, and I just want to continue to work hard doing the things that I need to do to make history.”
Orlando Cruz will wear rainbow trunks to honor the gay community and as a symbol of his pride as a gay man and as a boxer.