Orlando Cruz, the Puerto Rican boxer who came out as gay last October could on Saturday become the first openly gay World boxing champion.
Orlando faces his name sake, Orlando Salido to fight for the vacant WBO featherweight title in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
A few years ago when he was based in London, he was known as the Pink Pounder because he always wore pink.
On coming out as gay, Orlando, who is originally from Puerto Rico but now based in Florida said, “I now feel free to just get on with the boxing,”
“I’m not fighting two opponents any longer and that is a great relief. The nights of staying awake and crying are over.” He added
Cruz fought for Puerto Rico at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and has been a fringe contender for a couple of years and gay for a lot longer. “I’m a boxer first, I want to be a world champion and remembered that way and not as a gay boxer,” he says.
“Boxing can be a macho sport and I have heard some gay slurs,” says Cruz. “When two guys are in the ring you can hear people calling one a ‘faggot’ because he’s getting beat. It’s common and that will change; I can be a part of that change.”
“Gay, so what?” replied his opponent, Salido, when repeatedly asked about Cruz’s sexuality. “We are just two fighters and we both want to win the world title.”
All boxers in world title fights have to undergo and pass a routine HIV test and plenty, none of whom said they were gay, have failed the test.
Win or lose Cruz is planning to marry his partner, Jose Manuel, in December probably in New York as same-sex marriages are banned in both Florida and Puerto Rico.