Orlando Cruz, the first out boxer, won his Friday night (15 July) bout against Alejandro “Alex” Valdez. The seventh round knockout earned the Puerto Rican fighter the WBO’s North American Boxing Organization lightweight title, and a chance to honor victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre.
The entire night of boxing was held at the Kissimmee Civic Center (located approximately 23 miles away from Orlando). According to the Orlando Sentinel, those killed on the 12 June tragedy were honored with a 49-bell salute.
‘It was a great opportunity to get the win and represent my people,’ Cruz said to the newspaper. ‘I’m proud to give them an equal opportunity to compete. It meant a lot to get this win tonight, because it provides the opportunity for a world title.’
Michael Gonzalez, a survivor of the shooting, attended and called Cruz a hero in the LGBT community.
‘The fact that he’s gay is something huge,’ Gonzalez said. ‘It proves that sexuality has nothing to do with whatever you dream. You can be a boxer, you can be a basketball player, you can be a baseball player and it’s completely normal. Their sexuality doesn’t ruin the fact that they can be skilled the same.’
The 35-year-old Cruz lost four friends in the shooting that also injured 53. While unable to attend any funerals because of training camp he did, last week, lay gloves and flowers at the Pulse memorial.
At the weigh in for the fight, Cruz wore briefs to honor the victims:
“Orlando Cruz, the first openly gay boxer will be dedicating his upcoming July 15th fight to the victims of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, which claimed the lives of 49 people. Cruz, who lives in Puerto Rico with his partner had four friends who died in the tragedy. “At first, I was sad”, Cruz told the Orlando Sentinel of his reaction to teh shooting. “Second, angry. I am very angry because people are homophobic, so they attacked my community. They attacked me.” During the July 15th fight in Kissimmee, Florida, Cruz will ring 10 bells to honor the Orlando victims and their families. Cruz, currently the fifth ranked boxer in the world and the reigning champ in the super featherweight division came out in 2013 prior to a bout in Kissimmee. ~The Advocate. #homophobiaisstupid #orlandocruz #boxing #hateisstupid #revolutionary