It has been a journey for top rated featherweight Orlando Cruz. A member of the 2000 Puerto Rico Olympic boxing team, earlier this year he went public about being the first openly gay fighter in boxing. That was a bold move, but something that he is proud of and glad it is off his back.
Now, Cruz (20-2-1, 10 KO’s) can concentrate on boxing. And that journey continues with his first title shot on October 12th against former two-time world champion Orlando Salido, (39-12-2, 27 KO’s) for the vacant WBO featherweight championship. The fight will be a part of an undercard for the Top Rank/ HBO pay-per-view main event, Timothy Bradley –Juan Manuel Marquez welterweight championship from the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
“I know how hard I have worked to be here,” commented Cruz prior to a rare and interesting workout before the media at the Mendez boxing Gym in New York City Tuesday afternoon.
To say the least, it was rare to see and hear Cruz prior to the most important bout of his career. True, he received extensive media coverage when he went public about his personal life. He would continue his quest in the ring, aware that there could be some resentment about his lifestyle.
But, in all fairness, Cruz did not hide. He was seen at ringside for major title fights and on more than one occasion, showed his face at press conferences for major fight card announcements. There was never an inclination to hide from the public and he has thousands of followers on social media sites including Facebook and Twitter.
“I want to take the title back to Puerto Rico,” he says. “For all my fans all I have to think about is winning this fight. I am happy with the situation and I have a lot of support from around the world. I want to thank all the people that have supported me.”
He was featured on HBO’s “Real Sports”, CNN, and the international media as well. The personal story became more important than the boxing career, but Cruz believes his open announcement, a bold move, would be beneficial to those in a similar situation.
And that announcement drew praise from various organizations, a good many not associated with boxing and other sports.
“I want to win this fight for Puerto Rico and for my community,” he says.”I want to dedicate my fight to the LGBT, (the well known Lesbian and Gay organization) and all of Puerto Rico because they are going to have a new champion.”
It will be another fight billing a boxer from Mexico, that being Salido, and a fighter from Puerto Rico. Perhaps not the magnitude of fights in the past that involved participants from both countries, however the title is up for grabs and it will have implications in an exciting division that has the sport talking.
Cruz can land a punch, so can Salido. There is no telling how far this fight can go, or who will come out the winner.
“The way he comes is the way I will fight Salido,” Cruz said.”I am not going to run. When I need to fight, I am going to fight. When I need to box, I am going to box. I am going to be the smartest guy in the ring.”
That alone, is the strategy. But Salido can also have the same style, which adds to the anticipation of this showdown. And if Cruz wins, he would be the third world champion from that 2000 Olympic team that included Miguel Cotto and Ivan Calderon.
“To be a part of history in Puerto Rico,” said Cruz with a smile “Will be a great honor to be a part of the three.
COTTO FAR AWAY FROM BEING OVER THE HILL: Three division world champion Miguel Cotto and his new trainer Freddie Roach met the media this week. Cotto could be in a cross roads fight October 5th at the Amway Center in Orlando Florida against two-time world title challenger Delvin Rodriguez.
The 12-round super welterweight fight will be televised by HBO and co-promoted by Top Rank and Miguel Cotto Promotions. Besides this being a significant fight for Cotto he is in a joint promotional venture with Bob Arum. The other significance, Cotto is showing his loyalty to Arum.
Arum and Cotto, were a tandem selling out venues over the years, and Cotto under the Top Rank banner became one of the all-time revenue kings on Top Rank pay-per-view telecasts.
Rodriguez will be a challenge, something Cotto is aware of. Roach says Cotto has made progress working with him the first time, and his punching power has returned. Added to the significance is what Roach said about the fight.
“We are in a must win situation for sure,” says Roach. “We are working real hard and we know what the situation is.” Cotto also know the implications. He needs to show the boxing world that his last loss to Austin Trout is in the past. The power must return and he is looking for a dominant win at 154.
Said Cotto, who has no intentions of moving down to 147, “I am not thinking of a championship or defending titles or staying longer than I have to. I have an idea of what I have to do but everything will be decided after this fight.”
So rule out another possible fight with Manny Pacquiao. Cotto will stay at 154, and Roach also trains Pacquiao. To that, Roach said Pacquiao and Cotto are friends.
“They are friends now and once Manny becomes friends with someone he will never fight them,” said Roach. However, if Cotto wants to stay in the game, and if Pacquiao has no other alternative, Roach may have to step aside and let them fight.
After all, Miguel Cotto is still a commodity. But first, Rodriguez is the immediate mission. And Rodriguez (28-6-3, 16 K0’s) of the Dominican Republic, now residing in Danbury Connecticut, has the credentials having lost a 12-round decision to Trout last year and had two epic fights with Pawel Wolak.
“I don’t know, a couple of more fights than it will be over,” says Cotto when asked about the future. With a successful promotional company, and with the blessings of Arum, win or lose, something says Cotto will still have more fights left in him.
THROWING THE PUNCHES: It is boxing season and that means some interesting fights ahead on the calendar in the next month. The former WBC middleweight champ Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. opposes Bryan Vera (23-6, 14 KO’s) which will be televised on HBO.
The question is, how much does Chavez weigh, 174 or 168? Bob Arum, promoter of Chavez says the contract weight was not changed to 173, and is known that Chavez has a problem keeping weight. Regardless, an important fight is in store for fans and for both fighters.
Chavez has to prove that he can be a true middleweight, and if he indeed can make weight, more so, get the win, an anticipated return bout with Sergio Martinez could be on the agenda. But that can be ruled out because Chavez would have to be at 160 for a fight with Martinez, and that to Chavez is a difficult task.
Chavez also says the cut above his right eye that postponed this fight from September 7th has healed and there are no issues. Time will tell when the real Chavez will return to form….
To David Haye, who never seems to be away from controversy, his fight with Tyson Fury will still go on, but not until February 8th. Haye sustained a cut to his eye and there is always drama when Haye is in the discussion. And that only irks Fury who may take a fight sooner, as he was prepared to answer Haye as to who was the best in the ring….
This writer reflects on the recent passing of heavyweight Ken Norton. He came out of an era when the heavyweight was king of boxing. Along with Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Larry Holmes, Norton epitomized what that era was all about.
That was, good boxing and he gave the fans what they wanted. Rest in Peace champ as we continue to reflect those days when the heavyweight was king and the face of boxing.
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