KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- These last two weeks have weighed heavily on Orlando Cruz.
But as soon as he walked out to a cheering crowd displaying flags of his native Puerto Rico, boxing's first openly gay fighter could finally breathe and do what he came to do, slugging his way to a victory by unanimous decision over Jorge Pazos.
"That was my moment, my opportunity, my event," Cruz said Friday night after the bout, his mother Dominga Torres-Rivera seated beside him. "And I won."
Cruz was touched by the support on display at the Kissimmee Civic Center outside of Orlando, the latest in a continual outpouring since his announcement two weeks ago that made him the first active male athlete in a major sport to come out.
"I was very happy that they respect me. That's what I want - them to see me as a boxer, as an athlete and as a man in every sense of the word."