(USA Today) -- Featherweight boxer Orlando Cruz, from Puerto Rico, has become the first openly gay man in the sport's history, describing himself Wednesday as a "proud gay man."
Cruz (18-2-1, 9 KOs), the No. 4-ranked featherweight by the WBO, said, "I've been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself.
"I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career. I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man."
Cruz, 31, began boxing at age 7, and his amateur career culminated in his selection to the 2000 Puerto Rican Olympic Team in Sydney. His teammates included former world champions Miguel Cotto and Ivan Calderon.
Cruz debuted as a professional in 2000 and won his first world title (vacant IBA, a lesser title) on March 22, 2008. His next fight is Oct. 19 in Kissimmee, Fla., when he will defend his WBO NABO title against Jorge Pazos. A win could put Cruz in line for a major title shot.
Emile Griffith, a welterweight and middleweight champion who fought in the '50s and '60s, came out after his career had ended, saying in a Sports Illustrated story that he was bisexual. Griffith, 74, is still alive but suffers from pugilistic dementia.