Orlando Cruz, a 2000 Puerto Rican Olympian and boxing champion, is the first openly gay fighter. The 31-year-old has released a statement calling himself a “proud gay man.”
“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,” he says in a new interview with Associated Press. “I kept this hidden for many, many years.”
After first becoming a professional featherweight fighter in 2000, Cruz is currently ranked number four among his peers by the World Boxing Organization. His record is currently 18-2-1 with nine career knockouts. From 2000 to 2009, he had not lost a single fight.
“I don’t want to hide any of my identities,” he says. “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.”
He continues, “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.”