Earlier this month featherweight Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz made history by identifying himself as a “proud gay man.” With those words, Cruz became the first openly gay man in pro boxing.
This past Sunday Cruz was greeted with cheers as he walked in to the Kissimmee Civic Center outside of Orlando.
Cruz, 31, went on to win his fight against the Mexican boxer Jorge Pazos.
“I was very happy that they respect me. That’s what I want — them to see me as a boxer, as an athlete and as a man in every sense of the word,” Cruz told the AP after his fight.
But as soon as he walked out to a cheering crowd displaying flags of his native Puerto Rico, boxing’s first openly gay fighter could finally breathe and do what he came to do, slugging his way to a victory by unanimous decision over Jorge Pazos.
The No. 4-ranked featherweight by the WBO, said, “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.”
Cruz told the AP he has even bigger dreams after Sunday’s fight.
“This fight’s going to open my door for a world title fight,” Cruz said. “That’s my dream, my mom’s dream, my community’s dream and my team’s.”
Cruz’s mother was by his side throughout the evening on Sunday.