By Jim Kavanagh, CNN
Boxer Orlando Cruz is one tough man.
He had 179 wins and just 10 losses as an amateur and boxed for Puerto Rico in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. He went 17-0-1 in his first 18 professional fights, earning him the nickname El Fenomeno (The Phenom). He now boasts a pro record of 18-2-1, with 9 knockouts. He owns championship belts from the World Boxing Organization and International Boxing Association and is the fourth-ranked fighter in the WBO’s featherweight (126-pound) class.
He has bulging biceps, a chiseled chest, a brilliant smile and a lot of mean-looking tattoos.
And last week he let the world know he’s gay.
“It’s 12 years I’m waiting (to approach) this subject,” Cruz, 31, told CNN. “It’s amazing, you know? I’m happy.”
He said he made sure he had informed and gained the support of his family, friends, ex-boyfriends, teammates, manager and promoter before coming out.
“I have always been and always will be a proud gay man,” he said in a public announcement on October 3, according to Time.com.
Public reaction – including from fellow Puerto Rican boxing champion Miguel Cotto – has been positive and encouraging, he said.
Cotto told him, “It’s OK, Orlando. I support you. It’s good. It’s your decision, and I respect your decision,” Cruz said.
He said he’s also received support and guidance from high-profile gay rights activist Pedro Julio Serrano and singer Ricky Martin.
“Wow. Ricky Martin,” Cruz said with a smile. “Two days ago he called and texted me, ‘Relax, Orlando. I support you. It’s OK, don’t worry.’”
Cruz is scheduled to fight Jorge Pazos (20-4-0) on October 19 in Kissimmee, Florida, for the WBO Latino featherweight title.
“This is the new Orlando. This is the new Orlando ‘Phenom’ Cruz,” he told CNN. “I’m ready and hungry for victory.”