As a former boxing journalist and die hard fan of the noble art, I'm always saddened by what goes on in the sport. It's a corrupt business that trades in human blood and pain, leaving its athletes more often than not physically broken, and broke. But every now and then, there are moments of joy that lift the sport to heights no other could ever attain. As George Foreman once said, "Boxing is the sport that all other sports aspire to." And the story of Puerto Rican featherweight Orlando Cruz coming out as gay is one of those moments. Cruz is the first active professional male to reveal his homosexuality, an act of bravery that trumps any performance in the ring. As Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports writes:
No doubt, Cruz will face ridicule and scorn from those who are involved in the testosterone-addled sport he loves, much like the great Jackie Robinson did when he broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. It may hurt Cruz in the rankings. Judges may quietly score against him. Some foes might not want to fight him.
Worst, of course, will be the verbal taunts he'll receive from some factions of the fan base. They'll feel the need to prove their machismo by denouncing Cruz for his sexual orientation.
Boxing is as macho a sport as they come, and for a boxer to come out takes some serious self confidence. Cruz hopes he can become a role model, believing his willingness to come out will give a lot of confused kids hope about what they can achieve. He said in a statement:
"I don't want to hide any of my identities. I want people to look at me for the human being that I am. I am a professional sportsman [who] 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 [and] that anything is possible and that who you are or whom you love should not be impediment to achieving anything in life.....went I am and will always be a proud Puerto Rican gay man."
Bravo Orlando. Let's hope he paves the way for others in the sport to be themselves so that they can be judged on their fighting ability, not their sexuality.