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Monday, March 31, 2014
Orlando Cruz returns April 19

By Dan Rafael

Featherweight Orlando Cruz got a tremendous amount of attention before his last fight but probably won’t get nearly as much in his next one.

Back in October, Cruz, 32, of Puerto Rico, challenged Orlando Salido for a vacant featherweight world title on the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez pay-per-view undercard. In addition to the fight being a title bout, Cruz also got a lot of attention because he had come out as boxing’s first openly gay fighter.

It made him a hero to many and it took a lot of courage for him to come out. Although Salido knocked Cruz out in the seventh round of a one-sided fight, Cruz had made history, even if it wasn’t the kind that got him a title belt.

Now Cruz (20-3-1, 10 KOs) is set for his ring return. He will face Gamalier Rodriguez (23-2-3, 16 KOs), 27, of Puerto Rico, in a much lower profile 10-rounder on April 19 (UniMas) at the Bahia Shriners Event Center in Orlando, Fla., Top Rank and All-Star Boxing announced on Monday.

"I want to thank Top Rank and All-Star Boxing for this opportunity to redeem myself by getting me this [regional] title fight with Rodriguez,” Cruz said. “By winning this fight, I will be right back on the verge of another world title opportunity and conquer my dream of being a world champion.”

The co-feature will showcase 20-year-old blue chip lightweight prospect and 2012 Puerto Rican Olympian Felix Verdejo (11-0, 8 KOs) in a scheduled six-round bout.