Orlando Cruz Becomes First Openly Gay Boxer In History

Orlando Cruz, former Olympian and the World Boxing Federation’s number four ranked Featherweight, has punched his way out of the closet.

“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.

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  • 2eo

    Good luck, always think you have to be a little crazy to get punched in the head for a living. But trailblazers are always welcome and appreciated.

  • SnakeyJ

    The headline isn’t correct. Canadian boxer Marc Leduc came out of the closet in 1994.

  • Lester Brathwaite

    @SnakeyJ: Leduc retired in 1993 and came out the following year.

  • ginasf

    Maybe not the first, but a very brave and justifiably proud man. I give him huge props.

  • Dumdum

    OOOh Girrrl ! I’d let him give me boxing lessons. Hubba ! Hubba ! What a man !!!

  • biguy


  • Kieran

    This is really going to screw with straight people’s heads. A gay professional boxer? That goes against every time-honored stereotype about gay men that we’ve all been taught in our culture. Homosexuals are effeminate, soft, limp-wristed, weak, wannabe girls. They’re not supposed to be masculine and able to kick ass like a normal heterosexual man. I hope I’m wrong, but I predict this story will be swept under the rug very quickly by the media. Too confusing and disturbing for heterosexuals who much prefer to see their gays as unthreatening and readily identifiable, as on ‘Glee’.

  • streeteditions

    Emile Griffith was a wonderful man who was my friend for decades. He lived as an out gay man for much of his life, especially after an article in the Village Voice in the early 90’s. His guilt over the death of Benny Paret was profound, but he could punch and never disowned himself. I can only hope Orlando Cruz is as honest and good a person as Emile was.

  • startenout

    Congratulations! It takes a lot of physical strength to be a professional athlete, but even more emotional and mental strength to so it as an openly gay man. Kudos to this young man; may he blaze a trail for those brave enough to follow his lead.

  • CXXX1

    Congratulations! I hope this help many people who are part of the LGBT community and those who are not.

  • Rockery

    @Lester Brathwaite:

    LOL I love when someone puts someone in their place calmly

    PS – Congrats! More guys in sports need to come out

  • Avenger

    I wonder how many challengers will want to be in the same ring with him now…

  • EquesNiger

    LOL, so true! The only thing worse would be being “beaten by a girl”.
    Having said that, his contenders will likely result to some Tyson-esque tactics to avoid that, so, brave fellow for coming out. He no doubt knows this is going to be the case. In contact sports of straights with gay guys, the objective seems to distill down to not losing, not necessarily winning. Disqualified for excessive and gruesome behavior still counts as “not losing” in quite a few books.
    I am the sole gay guy in my various martial arts classes. Openly gay, but fortunately have some pretty open minded guys to spar with.
    Are there any more gay boxing/contact sport fans out there, or am I a distinct minority within the minority? I am always James Garner to Julie Andrews at the match.

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