The world of professional sports has seen a number of dynamic moments in the last few years as the historically hyper-masculine and homophobic sector of entertainment has begun shifting its community mindset to one that’s more accepting of the LGBT community. But, few moments have been more pivotal then featherweight boxer Orlando Cruz’s recent decision to come out of the closet as the first openly gay pro boxer.
According to ESPN, Cruz, the No. 4-ranked featherweight by the WBO, came out in a statement to the Associated Press, in which he called himself a “proud gay man.”
“I developed physically and mentally to take such a big step in my life and in my profession, which is boxing, knowing that it would have pros and cons, highs and lows in this sport that is so macho,” he said. “I kept this hidden for many, many years.”
Cruz said that he decided to come out because he was tired of hiding who he really was from the world.
“I don’t want to hide any of my identities,” he said. “I want people to look at me for the human being that I am. I am a professional sportsman that always brings his best to the ring. I want for people to continue to see me for my boxing skills, my character, my sportsmanship. But I also want kids who suffer from bullying to know that you can be whoever you want to be in life, including a professional boxer, that anything is possible and that who you are or whom you love should not be an impediment to achieving anything in life.”
Cruz says he met with psychologists and others before coming out and shared that his family, friends, coach and manager all support him and have shown him unconditional love since deciding to announce his sexuality.
And though Cruz, represented Puerto Rico in the Sydney 2000 Olympics, he is fully aware that coming out may affect his livelihood, he says he’s ready for any kind of fallout that may come his way and that many boxers already suspected that he was gay, but respected his privacy.
“I’]’ve been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself,” he said. “I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”
We congratulate Cruz on his decision to life freely and openly as a gay man and, hopefully, his story will inspire others to be more accepting and many more to live in their truth. Check out some other athletes living out and proud below. – nicholas robinson