In the new cover of ‘The Advocate’ magazine, World Boxing Organization’s number four-ranked featherweight, Orlando Cruz — who came out in the closet last fall — announced that he is “a proud gay man.”

Cruz first started boxing when he was 7 years old at 5 feet, 4 inches. “I was taunted and bullied because I was little,” he tells The Advovate. “And because they thought I was gay. They tried to abuse me with words.” He recalls he was called “maricon” and “pato” — two Spanish-language equivalents of “faggot.”

In an ongoing attempt to defend himself, Cruz wound up in a lot of fights. His parents didn’t want his to fight on the street so they enrolled him in boxing lessons. Cruz gained discipline as he became strong and fast fighter.

“In boxing there’s a lot of misconception that being gay means that I want to be a woman and I wanted to show that’s not the case.”

At 18, Cruz realized he was gay. At 25, he entered into a serious relationship with a man who lived in New Jersey. Eventually, he came out to his family and his team, becoming the first professional boxer in the world to come out of the closet mid-career. “My whole team supports me, and I’m going to continue boxing for all audiences,” he says. That said, he’d be thrilled if the gay fans started following him: “I will do my best to not disappoint the gay audience.”

Cruz figures he only has two or three more solid years in the ring. “I’ve been fighting for a long time,” he says.

When he retires he intends to “give back”: teach kids boxing, manage other athletes. With Serrano’s help, he plans to visit schools and teach students about bullying, be a role model for young people — not just those considering boxing.

“I want to help them achieve what they want to achieve, be who they are,” he says.

He’s 31.

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In the new cover of 'The Advocate' magazine, World Boxing Organization’s number four-ranked featherweight, Orlando Cruz -- who came out in the closet last fall -- announced that he is “a proud gay man.” Cruz first started boxing when he was 7 years old at 5 feet, 4 inches. “I...