Orlando Cruz becomes the first openly gay boxer after coming out before his October 19 fight. (Courtesy EMC events)

Orlando Cruz comes out as first openly gay boxer

He’s being called a hero and brave, but for Orlando Cruz, he sees himself as just proud. A proud, gay man.

“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,” Cruz told USA Today. “I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”

The 31-year-old Cruz (18-2-1, 9 KOs) and the No. 4-ranked featherweight by the World Boxing Organization, could be fighting for the featherweight title if he wins one more time.

Cruz began boxing at age 7, and his amateur career culminated in his selection to the 2000 Puerto Rican Olympic Team in Sydney. The timing comes ahead of his next fight, which is scheduled for October 19 in Kissimmee, Florida title against Jorge Pazos.

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Cruz released a statement where he elaborated on coming out.

“I don’t want to hide any of my identities,” Cruz 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.”

He also took time to thank those who made coming out an easy decision for him.

“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,” Cruz added.

“I am and will always be a proud Puerto Rican gay man.”

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