Orlando Cruz

Featherweight boxer Orlando Cruz, from Puerto Rico, has come out to become the first-ever openly gay man in professional boxing and says that he wants to be a role model to young people.

In an interview with the Associated Press, the 33-year-old Cruz described himself as “a proud gay man,” adding that “I kept this hidden for many, many years”.

He went on to say: “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.

“I’ve been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself.

“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.”

Cruz started his professional career in 2000 and is currently the No. 4-ranked WBO featherweight. His next fight is set for 19 October in Florida.

Only one other boxer has previously come out as an LGBT person. Emile Griffith, who fought in the 50s and 60s, came out as bisexual, but only almost 20 years after his career had ended.

Cruz said that he has the support of his family, trainer and manager. Dommys Delgado, president of the Boxing Commission of Puerto Rico, also backed the boxer.

“Orlando has proven to be an excellent boxer with very good chances of becoming a world champion. We do know that it is a very macho sport. Those who don’t want to fight with him, well, don’t fight,” she said.

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