Puerto Rican featherweight boxer Orlando Cruz makes a living at striking opponents when they least expect it. He's known for his speed in the ring and his quick combinations. But after today, he'll be known for something else: His sexual orientation. Cruz is gay.
The 31-year-old is widely believed to be the first professional male boxer to openly admit he is gay. In an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, Cruz said he is happy about the decision to come out and is "a proud gay man."
The topic of gay professional athletes isn't one that is new to the sports world. In early 2007, former NBA center John Amaechi came out to the public in his tell-all book, "Man in the Middle." Other athletes (mostly former) from the National Football League and Major League Baseball have also come out, but the number is miniscule.
While many athletes choose to remain silent on the topic, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has long been an advocate for same-sex marriage, but recently angered a Maryland delegate for his continued actions regarding the issue.
The news comes two weeks before Cruz -- a former Puerto Rican Olympian in 2000 -- is to take the ring against Mexican contender Jorge Pazos for the world featherweight title. Cruz is 18-2-1 with 9 KO's while Pazos comes into the bout with a 20-4 record, including 13 KO's.
Speaking to ESPN's Dan Rafael, Cruz said, "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 [an] impediment to achieving anything in life."