Puerto Rican featherweight champion boxer Orlando Cruz has come out and become the first openly gay, active fighter in the sport's history. The 31-year-old Cruz represented Puerto Rico in the Sydney 2000 Olympics and boasts a strong professional record of 18-2-1.
Cruz said that he hopes to become a "role model" for youth, reports USA Today.
"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."
Fight News has more on Cruz's career:
Cruz began boxing at the age of 7 and posted an amateur career record of 178-11. He won 7 Puerto Rico National Title’s and spent 4 years on The Puerto Rican National Team. Cruz won 7 Gold Medals, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze in various international tournaments. His amateur career culminated as a representative of the 2000 Olympic Team in Sydney, Australia. 2000 Olympic teammates included former world champions Miguel Cotto and Ivan Calderon.
Cruz made his professional debut on December 15, 2000 and won his first world title on March 22, 2008 and a regional title on October 14, 2011 (WBO Latino Featherweight title). His next fight is scheduled for October 19 in which he will defend his WBO NABO title against Jorge Pazos.
A win against Pazos should position Cruz for a bid to become the world champion in his division. But first the newly-out boxer will sit down next week with Telemundo for an exclusive interview.
Former welterweight and middleweight champion Emile Griffith came out as bisexual in a 2005 interview. Griffith's personal career includes one of the most controversial professional boxing fights: A notorious fight-to-death with Cuban fighter Benny Paret in March 1962 at Madison Square Garden. Griffith literally beat Paret into a pulp and he died 10 days later. Paret apparently called Griffith a "maricon", the Spanish equivalent of "faggot."
The incident became the basis of the 2005 documentary Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story. In 1992, Griffith was viciously beaten and almost killed after leaving a gay bar in midtown Manhattan.