Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Orlando Cruz

What with all the recent attention given active professional team sports athletes Jason Collins (basketball) and Robbie Rogers (soccer), professional boxer Orlando Cruz wants to remind everyone that he came out before either Rogers or Collins.

Puerto Rico’s featherweight boxer Cruz has won two fights since coming out last year. As an amateur, he represented Puerto Rico at the 2000 Olympic Games in Australia. Cruz made his professional debut that same year against Alfredo Valdez in Puerto Rico. Cruz was undefeated for nine years, until he lost to Cornelius Lock by a technical knockout in 2009. Cruz is currently ranked at No. 4 among featherweights by the World Boxing Organization (WBO).

On October 4, 2012, Cruz became the first WBO boxer to come out as gay while still active professionally, stating that "I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”

Cruz revealed in his statement that he was tired of hiding who he really was.

"I don't want to hide any of my identities," he said. "I want people to look at me for the human being that I am. I am a professional sportsman that always brings his best to the ring. I want for people to continue to see me for my boxing skills, my character, my sportsmanship. But I also want kids who suffer from bullying to know that you can be whoever you want to be in life, including a professional boxer, that anything is possible, and that who you are or whom you love should not be an impediment to achieving anything in life.”

Cruz said he met with psychologists and others before making the announcement, adding he had the full support of his family, trainer and manager. He praised his mother and sister for their unconditional love and said his father has always backed him. At the time Cruz came out, no active professional team sports player had yet come out as gay. Robbie Rogers and Jason Collins have since taken care of that deficiency.

Note: U.S. Virgin Islander Emile Griffith, who told The New York Times in 2005 that he struggled with his sexuality, admitted that he had sexual relations with both men and women. His comments, however, came decades after he ended his 18-year career as a pro boxer. Griffith is well-known for his 1962 fight against Cuban boxer Benny Paret, who taunted Griffith with gay slurs before their bout (during the weigh-in, Paret patted Griffith’s behind and called him a maricon – Spanish for “faggot”). Griffith knocked him out, and Paret died 10 days later. Griffith is also a former middleweight champion and a Hall of Famer.

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