Pushing Back Past Personal Struggle's, Orlando Hopes To 'Cruz' To Victory
Orlando “El Fenomeno”—(Phenominal)—Cruz, from Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, the number 1 contender for the W.B.O. Featherweight Boxing Title fights Orlando Salido on Saturday.
Cruz, who struggled with personal emotions for many years, finally came out and announced that he was Gay on October 3, last year.
This announcement was met with mixed reactions, because of the nature of a boxing career which is “super macho” and brutal. Cruz was encouraged not only by his family and close friends, but especially his supportive mother, Dominga Torres Rivera.
This milestone announcement marks the first time that an active competing athlete made this statement of being Gay, in any realm of contact Sports, especially in boxing to the public.
Orlando Cruz who has been fighting for 24 years which includes amateur competition, and was a member of 2000 Olympic team representing Puerto Rico. That Olympic Team, included, 4 time world Champ, Miguel Cotto, and 2 time world champ Ivan “Iron Boy” Calderon. Orlando Cruz stated that it was a relief to “finally face people as I really am, a Gay proud Puerto Rican who happens to be a professional boxer, on his way to a title fight at the 126 pound weight level.”
Cruz has always dreamed of winning a world title and since this pressure of coming out of the closet is finally over he could now concentrate on training very hard and defeating Orlando “Siri” Salido for the vacant W.B.O. Featherweight Crown that Mickey Garcia had to relinquish because he failed to make the contracted weight when he fought Juan Manuel Lopez.
Cruz with a record of 23-2-1, 10 knockouts, and is also a southpaw is the current W.B.C. Latino 126 pound champ and who hopes to add the W.B.O. Title, is a speedy smart boxer with a pretty good punch, and always attacks the body because as he stated very frankly, “I know that Salido is a very tough veteran fighter who has fought almost everybody in the 126 pound ranks, and has even knocked down the tough Cuban Olympian Yuriorkis Gamboa, and also is very strong. My mission is to slow him down with a body punishment, if you kill the body the head will die”.
Cruz further added with an impish grin, while he was training at the Mendez Gym on West 26th. Street, Manhattan, “maybe, I’ll fight him like Floyd Mayweather fought Canelo Alvarez”, hit and miss and I’ll beat him that way. I do have a lot of speed.”
This championship fight is the semi-final of a mega title fight featuring Juan Manuel “Dinamita” Marquez, 5 time world champ, challenging current W.B.O. 147 pound champ, Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley, and is promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions, at the Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vega, Nevada.
As the Bradley vs. Marquez fight is labeled a survival fight , in an emotional way so is the Cruz fight since he is going through the emotions of 12 years of “hiding” and of finally coming out hoping that he is accepted, as a professional boxer challenging for a world title, and if he wins, he is just another world champ, not a Gay boxer, who has attained the ranks of fellow Puerto Rican world boxing champions like, Tito Trinidad, Jose “Chegui” Torres, Wilfredo Gomez, Juan Manuel “JunMa” Lopez, and of course his former Olympic team mates and also world champs, Iron Boy Calderon and Miguel Angel Cotto.
He was extremely delighted that after coming out, the National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame inducted him on, August 2, 2013. Cruz who turned pro in the year 2000 always competed as a featherweight and remained undefeated until 2009.
“I finally feel completely relieved that I finally came out, which was one of my goals and the next goal is to win a world title which I hope to do this Saturday, against Orlando Salido, plus I am dedicating my victory to the great world champ Emile Griffith who I know probably went through a lot of agony trying to hide his sexuality in this pro-macho homophobic sport of boxing.”
Who will win this featherweight title fight is left up to question even though Orlando Salido, 39-12-2 draws- 1 no contest, 27 knockouts, is the veteran fighter who has fought a better class of opponents and actually has more knockouts-27- that Cruz has fights.
Additionally, Salido is a come at you hard punching right hander who also punishes the body, so the physical and experience advantage by this account would go to Salido. But there is an emotional strength-a “high”- riding on the shoulders of Orlando Cruz for coming out and the easy task might just be to defeat Orlando-his name-sake-Salido, since the pressure is now off his mind and all he has to do is concentrate on winning a world title. This fight is a “pick-em” no matter how you analyze it.