Meet Orlando Cruz, the fifth ranked boxer in the world.
He’s dedicating his July 15 fight to the victims of Orlando’s Pulse massacre, which claimed 49 lives.
Cruz happened to know four of the victims.
“At first, I was sad,” said Cruz, speaking to the Orlando Sentinel. “Second, angry. I am very angry because people are homophobic, so they attacked my community. They attacked me.”
During Friday’s fight — which takes place in Kissimmee, Florida — Cruz will ring 10 bells; a gesture that pays respect to the Orlando victims and their families.
Cruz currently lives in Puerto Rico with his partner, and says his chosen outfit will be an “homage” to the victims of the attack, which now stands as America’s deadliest mass shooting.
Cruz came out in 2013. ““I decided to be free,” he tells The Guardian.
They can call me maricón, or faggot, and I don’t care. Let them say it because they can’t hurt me now. I am relaxed. I feel so happy. But to make this announcement to the whole world I had to be very strong. … I am proud to be Puerto Rican, just like I am proud to be a gay man.”
This isn’t the first time he’s lost friends to homophobic violence.
“I lost one friend who was murdered by people who hated gay men,” he said. “I was very angry then because homophobia ended his life in the most violent way.”
Fight News reports that Cruz was unable to attend funerals for the victims because of training camp, but on Tuesday, he visited Pulse nightclub and left a pair of boxing gloves and flowers to pay tribute to his friends.