“I’ve been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself,” said Cruz. “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 is the first openly gay man in boxing. Emile Griffith, a welterweight and middleweight champion from the 50s through his retirement in 1977, came out as bisexual in a 2005 Sports Illustrated article. Griffith is notorious for beating his opponent Benny Paret into a coma after Paret called him a “maricón” — faggot. Paret died 10 days later and the incident was the subject of the documentary, Ring of Fire.
Hailing from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Cruz, 31, began boxing at age 7 and during his amateur career posted a record of 178 wins and 11 losses. In 2000, he was selected for Puerto Rico’s Olympic boxing team. He then made his professional debut in December 2000, winning his first title in March 2008. Cruz has a current record of 18 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss with 9 KOs and will defend his WBO NABO title against Jorge Pazos on October 19. Should he defeat Pazos, Orlando Cruz could be positioned for a world title shot.