SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Orlando Cruz, a featherweight boxer and former Olympian, stunned the world of professional boxing Wednesday after announcing that he “is a proud gay man.”
Cruz, 31, began boxing at age 7, and his amateur career culminated in his selection to the 2000 Puerto Rican Olympic Team in Sydney. His teammates included former world champions Miguel Cotto and Ivan Calderon.
Cruz, who lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is currently the number four ranked Featherweight in the sport globally by the World Boxing Organization (WBO).
In an open letter published Wednesday, the boxing champion wrote:
“I’ve been fighting for more that 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 always been and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and will always be a proud gay man. I don’t want to hide any of my identities. I want people to look at me for the human being that I am. I am a professional sportsman that always bring 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 impediment to achieving anything in life.
“I want to thank my family, especially my Mom, who’s my inspiration and my best reason to continue to live and my brother and my sister. I want to thank my friends for their love and support. And I also want to thank my team for believing in me and being so supportive not only in this decision, but throughout my career.
“I am and will always be a proud Puerto Rican gay man.”
Before commencing his professional career in the sport, Cruz 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.
Cruz made his professional debut on December 15, 2000 and won his first world title on March 22, 2008 (vacant IBA Featherweight Title) and a regional title on October 14, 2011 (WBO Latino Featherweight title).
His next fight is scheduled for October 19 at the Kissimmee Civic Center in Kissimmee, Florida in which he will defend his WBO NABO title against Jorge Pazos. A win against Pazos should position Cruz for a world title shot.
Cruz is sitting down with Telemundo’s Jessi Losada in an exclusive tell-all interview later this week that is scheduled to air the week of October 15.