Orlando Cruz, ranked the world number 4 featherweight boxer, has come out as gay, in a statement issued to the media earlier today.
Cruz, who made his professional debut in 2000, has been boxing since the age of seven.
As reported byPink News, Cruz is the "first openly gay professional fighter who has come out whilst his career is still active".
The 31-year-old turned professional shortly after the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and went on to win his first professional fight, against Alfredo Valdez, on 15 December of that year.
In the statement, reproduced on the Doghouse Boxing website, Cruz said, "I've been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career I want to be true to myself [...] I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man."
Addressing specifically young people bullied because of who they are, the 31-year-old boxer continues with, "I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career.
"I also want kids who suffer from bullying, to know that you can be whoever you want to be in life, including a professional boxer. That anything is possible and that who you are or whom you love should not be impediment to achieving anything in life."
The Guardianreports that Cruz "posted an amateur career record of 178-11. He won seven Puerto Rico titles and spent four years in the national team, winning seven gold medals, one silver and two bronze in international tournaments."
In his professional career, "[Cruz] has fought 21 combats, with 9 KOs and only 2 losses. He's currently the Latin Champion of the World Boxing Organization."
Known also as "El Olimpico" and "El Fenómeno", Cruz's next fight is scheduled in the US on 19 October, at Kissimmee, Florida, He will be defending his World Boxing Organisation/North American Boxing Organization title against Mexico's Jorge Pazos.