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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 5, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 40
A champion for equality
Section One
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A champion for equality

Orlando Cruz comes out as the first openly Gay pro boxer

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Orlando Cruz, a professional boxer and former Olympian from San Juan, Puerto Rico (18-2-1, 9 KOs), currently ranked the world's No. 4 featherweight contender by the World Boxing Organization (WBO), announced October 3 that he 'is a proud Gay man.'

Cruz thus became the first pro fighter in boxing history to come out as Gay while still active in the ring. (A few others, such as Emile Griffith, have disclosed their sexual orientation after retiring.)

'I've been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself,' Cruz said in a press release. '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. I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud Gay man.'

A RING VETERAN
Cruz has enjoyed an impressive pugilistic career. Now 31, he began boxing at age seven and went on to post an amateur record of 178-11, winning seven Puerto Rico national titles. He spent four years on the Puerto Rican national team, during which he won seven gold, one silver, and two bronze medals in various international tournaments.

His amateur career culminated as a representative of the 2000 Olympic Team in Sydney, Australia. Among his teammates that year were former world champions Miguel Cotto and Ivan Calderon.

On December 15, 2000, Cruz made his professional debut and won his first world title on March 22, 2008 (the vacant IBA featherweight title), and a regional title on October 14, 2011 (the WBO Latino featherweight title).

His next fight is scheduled for October 19 in Kissimmee, Florida, where he will defend his title against Jorge Pazos of Mexico. A win over Pazos should position Cruz for a WBO world title shot.

'COMFORTABLE' WITH DECISION
Cruz told the Los Angeles Times he's received 'unconditional, 100% support,' including text messages and Twitter and Facebook notes of endorsement from Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin.

'I was physically and mentally prepared for whatever the reaction would be before this, and I can tell you from the response, this will never bother me again,' Cruz said. 'I feel comfortable with myself.'

He also has come out as an advocate for marriage equality, saying, 'The Gay community should have the same rights as the heterosexual community, and I want to be part of that movement to make that happen here.'

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