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Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Orlando Cruz wants to create a different stir

By Carlos Narvaez

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Orlando Cruz says he wants people to talk about him not because of his private life, but because of his boxing skills. He'll soon get a prime opportunity to create the buzz he seeks in the ring.

Orlando Cruz
Orlando Cruz, the first openly gay boxer in history, is ready to become known as something more: a champion.
Puerto Rico's Cruz, who stole headlines last October by becoming the first boxer to publicly reveal that he is gay, appears to be on his way to fighting Orlando Salido for a vacant featherweight title.

Ranked the No. 1 126-pound contender by one of the alphabet organizations, Cruz (20-2-1) would likely take on Salido in Puerto Rico or New York City in August. He claims he is ready to become boxing's first openly gay titleholder.

"This crown is headed to Puerto Rico before the end of 2013," Cruz said. "I will be the first openly gay world champion in history, and it will be huge."

Cruz was lined up for the title shot when the belt was stripped from Mikey Garcia after he failed to make the featherweight limit at the weigh-in before his defense against Juan Manuel Lopez on June 15.

Lopez was still eligible to win the title, but he lost to Garcia by fourth-round TKO.

"I know that in boxing there are many people like me who haven't dared to take the step like I did, revealing that I'm gay," Cruz said. "Being the first gay champion will be a big accomplishment to all of them."

Cruz had been scheduled to fight Saturday in Kissimmee, Fla., but his promoter pulled him from the tune-up bout to avoid jeopardizing his shot at the title after the news broke that Garcia had vacated it.

"I was really surprised when I heard about the decision," Cruz said.

"But I am really happy for all the opportunities that have lined up. I have the ultimate respect for Orlando 'Siri' Salido, and I've had the chance to talk to him on several occasions."

Salido (39-12-5, 27 KOs) hasn't fought since he lost to Garcia by technical decision in January.

"I think he has never faced an opponent like me: slick, able to counter-attack and also a puncher," Cruz said. "I've got all the tools. I'm not underestimating him, but I've got some good skills and will give my best effort."