PHOTO: DER SPIEGEL
Puerto Rican featherweight champion Orlando Cruz is the subject of this week's "Der Spiegel Interview." This is major because the iconic German news weekly is one of Europe's largest publications. The openly gay boxer talks about discovering his sexuality as a teenager in Puerto Rico... and the climate of fear after the brutal killing of a transgender friend.
It's a long interview and probably Cruz's most revealing so far. Definitely read it if you have five or ten minutes.
CRUZ: I was 19 years old. I was boxing at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. I met a man there. And when I got home, I sensed that something in me had changed. ... I was in a very bad state [b]ecause I wasn't prepared for it. For a long time I didn't want to accept that I was gay. Better said: I couldn't accept it because I was too afraid. Homosexuals were discriminated against in Puerto Rico back then, sometimes even killed. I had a friend named José, but we called him Linoshka because [she] was [transgender]. [She] was stabbed to death in the street at the age of 19 by a homophobe because [she] had taken part in a gay-pride parade.
SPIEGEL: How did you handle it all?
CRUZ: It was a painful path, but I was lucky in that my mother gave me her support. One year after the Olympics, I explained to my parents that I was gay. My mother told me she didn't care, and that she loved me. After that, we both cried for joy. [My father] was more difficult. He was never as sympathetic as my mother. In the meantime, my parents have separated. During my fight two weeks ago, my mother was sitting right next to the ring; my father was up in the stands. But I was happy that he was there at all.
Cruz also talks about the "macho" swager of boxing and where he fits in: "I [want] to prove to people that I am not a girl in the ring. I am a man in every sense of the word."
The 31-year-old boxer came out publicly in early October. At that time he became the first openly gay active fighter in the hyper-masculine sport—well known for its homophobic trash talking and homoerotic subtext. About two weeks later he won his first boxing match since publicly coming out. Cruz beat Jorge Pazos in a unanimous decision at a televised bout in Florida.