Orlando Cruz, 31, the Puerto Rican featherweight boxer who is currently ranked No. 4 in the world by the World Boxing Organization (WBO), has come out of the closet as a "proud gay man," becoming the first person in the world of professional boxing to be openly gay while still competing.

"I've been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself," Cruz began in a statement he released on Wednesday, reports LGBTQ Nation. "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," he wrote.

"I have always been and will always be a proud Puerto Rican," Cruz went on. "I have always been and will always be a proud gay man. I don’t want to hide any of my identities. I want people to look at me for the human being that I am. I am a professional sportsman that always bring his best to the ring. I want for people to continue to see me for my boxing skills, my character, my sportsmanship."

Part of Cruz's motivation to come out, he explained, was to support "kids who suffer from bullying" and to let them know "that anything is possible and that who you are or whom you love should not be impedidiment to achieving anything in life."

Cruz then thanked his mother, his family, his friends and his team. "I am and will always be a proud Puerto Rican gay man," he re-emphasized.

Cruz's next fight is scheduled for October 19 at the Kissimmee Civic Center in Florida, where he will face off against Jorge Pazos.

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