Puerto Rican boxer Orlando “The Phenomenon” Cruz (@ElFenomenoCruz) has become the first boxer in history to openly declare his homosexuality while remaining professionally active in the sport.
In statements made to USA Today, Cruz said:
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.
The affirmation made by Cruz, who is currently the number four featherweight boxer in the world, was no small matter. The boxer, who also competed in the Olympics in Sydney, Australia, is active in a sport whose world has traditionally been perceived and constructed as one in which hypermasculinity and heteronormativity are the norm, denying space to other forms of sexuality.
Boxing and fighting blog En la pelea [es] praises Cruz's decision:
Mientras esta es obviamente una historia del boxeo, esta también es una historia que le dolera a la cultura de los deportes de combate ‘macho‘ y muchas veces ‘homofobica‘. Las declaraciones de Cruz no solo necesitaron de coraje si no que servirán para ser un mejor rol a seguir al ser la cara de una cultura que no siempre es aceptada en estos deportes.
While this is obviously a story in boxing, it is also a story that hurts the culture of the “macho” and oftentimes “homophobic” combat sports. Cruz's declarations did not only require courage but will also serve to make him a better role model as the face of a culture that is not always accepted in these sports.
Ociogay [es] emphasizes the fact that Cruz decided to make his sexual orientation public in the middle of his career instead of at the end, as was the case with other athletes:
El valor que ha tenido Cruz es loable, ya que los ejemplos de anuncios homosexuales que se han dado en el deporte de élite han estado más cerca del final de la carrera de los deportistas. Ejemplos hay muchos, como el jugador de rugby Gareth Thomas y la estrella de la NBA John Amaechi. Sin embargo, Orlando Cruz lo ha hecho en activo, con 31 años de edad, y en un momento deportivo más que bueno.
The courage that Cruz has had is commendable, since the examples of homosexual announcements that have been given in the high-ranking sport have been close to the end of the athletes’ careers. There are many examples, such as that of rugby player Gareth Thomas and NBA star John Amaechi [es]. Nevertheless, Orlando Cruz has done it while active, with 31 years of age, and when he is at a very good athletic moment.
Obviously, reactions on Twitter were aplenty and, overall, showed support for Cruz's decision:
@zute1971: Boxer Orlando Cruz tells the world he is gay. I am not sure how the boxing world will react, but I for one have much respect. Applause!
Puerto Rican LGBT activist Yoriye Irizarry also expressed himself on Twitter:
@CyborgYoryie: We are all over the place, and Orlando Cruz deserves support. I imagine that it must be difficult to come out of the closet in the world of boxing. primerahora.com/boxeadororland… [es]
Pop star Ricky Martin, who also made his sexual orientation public in 2010, tweeted messages of support to Orlando Cruz:
In the end, Orlando Cruz, upon seeing the number of people who expressed their support upon his coming out, tweeted the following message:
@ElFenomenoCruz: Buenos Dias Puerto Rico y New York y toda parte del Mundo Gracia por sus apoyos los quiero de todo Corazon su amigo Orlando Cruz.
@ElFenomenoCruz: Good morning Puerto Rico, New York, and the rest of the world. Thank you for your support. I love you all from the bottom of my heart. Your friend, Orlando Cruz.