Oct 4, 2012, 10:17 AM EDT
It may be overstating things a bit to compare Orlando Cruz to Jackie Robinson, but then again, maybe not. It takes a lot of courage for a professional athlete to come out and announce to the world that he’s gay — especially a boxer. Especially a good boxer, who seemingly has a lot of his career ahead of him.
Cruz, who represented Puerto Rico in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, is now 18-2-1 as a pro and ranked No. 4 featherweight by the WBO. And on Wednesday he announced that he was gay, becoming the first openly gay competitor in boxing history.
Cruz, 31, issued this press release on Wednesday:
“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.”
From Yahoo sports:
Cruz has been boxing since he was seven and boasted an amateur record of 178-11, taking in seven national titles in his homeland and seven international gold medals. He is due to further discuss his announcement and its potential ramifications in a sit-down televised interview next week.
He has won his last two fights since being stopped by Cornelius Lock and Daniel De Leon and defends his WBO NABO title against Jorge Pazos on October 19 in Kissimmee [Fla.].
It remains to be seen if this is the catalyst that prompts other pro athletes to come out and announce that they’re gay. It’s still a very tough thing to do: the stigma among teammates is real, and the controversy over gay rights issues is circulating widely in the sports world.
More from Cruz’s statement, via ESPN:
“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 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.”
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