Just two weeks after announcing to the world that he is a ‘proud gay man,’ pro boxer Orlando Cruz stepped back into the ring and suddenly felt even more pressure to beat his opponent, Jorge Pazos.
‘I had to win that fight,’ Cruz tells The Advocate.
Had he lost, he says, he would have been ‘taunted and harassed. I knew I had to win, I felt the pressure.’
Cruz also wanted to shatter some stereotypes during the fight so at one point, he grabbed Pazos from behind and pulled him in close before being separated by the referee.
‘I wanted to show that I am a man in the ring,’ he says. ‘In boxing there’s a lot of misconception that being gay means that I want to be a woman and I wanted to show that’s not the case.’
Cruz finds himself a gay athlete in a sport not known for having very many gay fans. While he says he will continue to box for all fans, he would be thrilled to develop a large gay following and bring more of that demographic to the sport.
‘I will do my best not to disappoint the gay audience,’ he says.
Currently ranked the number four in the featherweight division by the World Boxing Organization, Cruz figures he’s got at least two more solid years in the ring during which he hopes to become world champion.
After that, he wants to give back by teaching kids to box and talking about bullying in schools – something he dealt with in his childhood.
‘I want to help them achieve what they want to achieve,’ he says. ‘Be who they are.’