Orlando Cruz on His Biggest Fight Yet

Coming out certainly changed him, but will it change the sport of boxing?

BY Ari Karpel

January 25 2013 7:00 AM ET


 

Cruz says he hasn’t received any offers from other promoters. “But my whole team supports me, and I’m going to continue boxing for all audiences,” he says. That said, he’d be thrilled if the gay fans started following him: “I will do my best to not disappoint the gay audience.”

Cruz figures he only has two or three more solid years in the ring. “I’ve been fighting for a long time,” he says.

When he retires he intends to “give back”: teach kids boxing, manage other athletes. With Serrano’s help, he plans to visit schools and teach students about bullying, be a role model for young people — not just those considering boxing.

“I want to help them achieve what they want to achieve, be who they are,” he says.

But these next two years are crucial for his career, which has been on the rise. Right now, he’s in his prime, ranked the number 4 featherweight by the World Boxing Organization. In fact, 2013 is his chance to become a world champion. “That is my dream,” he says. The momentum he has from the Pazos fight makes his ascension seem likely.

When Cruz climbed into the ring that night, he was empowered by his coming-out. He was primed. He knew that if he didn’t win, there would be hell to pay. “I would have been taunted and harassed,” he says. “I knew I had to win. I felt the pressure.”

And he met it head on. Cruz danced around Pazos with a smile on his face. He was fighting for so much more than himself. He was fighting for his dignity, and for that of all the boys and men afraid of owning who they are.

In sports, there may be no substitute for winning, but whether the LGBT world realizes it yet or not, Cruz is already a champion.

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