Orlando Cruz given chance to become 1st openly gay world boxing champion
Nicknamed ‘El Fenomeno’, the 5ft 4in tall Cruz has a record of 25 wins and four losses with one draw on his professional record and went undefeated for nine years after making his debut in 2000.
He became the first openly gay active boxer when he came out four years ago this month in 2012, at which time the WBO ranked him the No. 4 featherweight in the world.
He is currently ranked No.2 in the world at super featherweight, and will be coming up in weight to face Flanagan.
The pint-sized puncher has already once had a shot at winning a world title: in 2013 he was knocked out by Mexican Orlando Salido in a losing bid for the WBO super featherweight title.
Now aged 35, the San Juan-based boxer knows the fight with Flanagan is probably the last chance to achieve his dream. Nevertheless, his confidence in fulfilling his ambition has not diminished.
"At 35 years old – I feel great. I know my opponent will come to fight but I am prepared and ready for victory and then to be crowned world champion. I’m focused on becoming the only gay world champion in boxing history," he told Puerto Rican newspaper El Vocero.
I'm gay boxer very happy, thanks my god for everything in my beautiful life. pic.twitter.com/plCH5mrCJ8— The Phenom Cruz (@ElFenomenoCruz) March 22, 2016
In the same year as the Salido title fight, Cruz married his boyfriend, José Manuel Colón in New York's Central Park. Since his coming out, Cruz has become an advocate for LGBT rights.
"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 said in a statement after his announcement.
His Twitter bio reads, "Gay Puerto Rican boxer, I always feel proud and be a great gay sportsman. I feel to represent my country Puerto Rico and my Latín People, Thank you God 4 all."
Cruz also dedicated his knockout victory over Alejandro Valdez in July this year in Florida to the victims of the shooting attack on the Orlando Pulse club in the state which happened the month prior.
Morning 🌎 World I have the official T-shirt in support of the families of the victims at the Pulse Bar. pic.twitter.com/oYg2PtdOYv— The Phenom Cruz (@ElFenomenoCruz) July 14, 2016
“It was a great opportunity to get the win and represent my people. I’m proud to give them an equal opportunity to compete. It meant a lot to get this win tonight, because it provides the opportunity for a world title,” said Cruz after the fight.
Cruz currently holds the WBO NABO super featherweight title and will take on ‘Turbo’ Flanagan at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena on November 26.