Boxing welcomes first openly gay fighter

By Lindsey Woods

I am not a huge fan of boxing. If I wanted to see a couple of muscled dudes punch each other, I’d just go to a bar in Wrigleyville and order some bros too many Jager bombs. But my dislike of the sport was recently challenged when No. 4-ranked featherweight boxer Orlando Cruz declared on Oct. 3 that he is “a proud gay man.”

This proclamation makes Cruz the first openly gay boxer, a feat he and the sport should be incredibly proud of. This makes boxing more progressive than football, basketball and hockey, considering those sports have never had a publicly gay, actively playing athlete.

First, I would like to congratulate Cruz for being so brave. It could not have been an easy decision to come out in a sport that has such a machismo mentality, which doesn’t always breed acceptance. Cruz had to know he would get some negative reactions, but he came out anyway and is now a role model for athletes in every sport.

Hopefully, this is the beginning of a trend. While I believe women’s sports have traditionally been very tolerant of all sexual orientations, men’s sports have some catching up to do. There has been a lot of progress in the past five years, which was augmented by the You Can Play Project, which I reported on for the The Chronicle April 9.

The project got a lot of professional athletes together to declare their support of gay athletes, which is an important step forward. But what the project was missing was an openly gay pro athlete.

Traditionally, professional athletes come out after they retire, like Esera Tuaolo, who came out in 2002 after he retired from the NFL. John Amaechi came out in similar fashion in 2007 after ending his career as an NBA center. Both men are brave for doing so, but what professional sports needs now is an active player to show the world that gay men can be just as good at sports as straight men.

That’s exactly what Cruz has done. His success in the ring should be a big wake-up call to the bigots out there who think homosexuality somehow defines people as weak or not athletic because it simply is not true.

I’m not saying that every gay man in professional sports should be forced to come out just to prove a point. I understand that coming out is a deeply personal decision, and such a public announcement may not be the right choice for everyone. But I think young athletes and fans can benefit from having an openly gay athlete for a role model.

Cruz’s proclamation will hopefully clear a path for other closeted gay athletes to come out and prove to the world that it doesn’t matter whom you love but how you play your sport.