- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
- 0 Shares
When featherweight Orlando Cruz of Puerto Rico announced earlier this month that he was gay -- boxing's first male fighter to come out of the closet -- it was a surprise to many that he would do it. Many also wondered how he would be treated in such a hyper-masculine sport.
From what I can tell, nobody really cares all that much. I know I don't care. If Cruz can fight, he can fight. If he can't, he can't. His sexual orientation is of no matter to me and doesn't seem to make a difference to the vast majority of boxing people and fight fans.
One such person who couldn't care less about Cruz's announcement is Jorge Pazos (20-4, 13 KOs), a heretofore unknown fighter from Mexico.
He also happens to be Cruz's first opponent since he made his announcement. The fighters meet on Friday night (Telemundo, 11:30 ET) in a scheduled 12-round bout at the Kissimmee Civic Center in Kissimmee, Fla., an Orlando suburb.
Asked about fighting Cruz, a 2000 Puerto Rican Olympian, Pazos said through a translator upon his arrival in Florida: "I come very well prepared. I have trained for eight weeks and we are ready and waiting for fight night. The simple fact that he declared himself a homosexual does not take anything away from the fact that he is a great boxer. He has two hands and two legs to move around, and it's going to be a great fight."
Cruz (18-2-1, 9 KOs) surprised many with his declaration in a press release in early October in which he made a lengthy statement about his personal life.
"I don't want to hide any of my identities," he said in part of his statement. "I want people to look at me for the human being that I am. I am a professional sportsman that 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, that anything is possible and that who you are or whom you love should not be an impediment to achieving anything in life.
"I've been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself," he said. "I have always been and always will be a proud gay man."