This is awesome. From a press release issued Wednesday night, via Andrés Duque at Blabbeando:

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (October 3, 2012)  —  Orlando Cruz, a professional boxer from San Juan Puerto Rico (18-2-1, 9 KOs), former Olympian and currently ranked No. 4 Featherweight by the World Boxing Organization (WBO), is announcing today that he ”Is a proud gay man.”

Cruz is the first openly gay man in boxing history.  “I’ve been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself,” said Cruz.  “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 have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican.  I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”

Orlando Cruz began boxing at the age of 7 and posted an amateur career record of 178-11.  He won 7 Puerto Rico National Title’s and spent 4 years on The Puerto Rican National Team.  Cruz won 7 Gold Medals, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze in various international tournaments.  His amateur career culminated as a representative of the 2000 Olympic Team in Sydney, Australia.  2000 Olympic teammates included former world champions Miguel Cotto and Ivan Calderon.

Cruz made his professional debut on December 15, 2000 and won his first world title on March 22, 2008 (vacant IBA Featherweight Title) and a regional title on October 14, 2011 (WBO Latino Featherweight title).  His next fight is scheduled for October 19 at the Kissimmee Civic Center in Kissimmee, Florida in which he will defend his WBO NABO title against Jorge Pazos.  A win against Pazos should position Cruz for a world title shot.

Orlando Cruz is sitting down with Telemundo’s Jessi Losada in an exclusive tell-all that will air next week.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Cruz has received “unconditional, 100% support” since coming out, including messages of encouragement from fellow athletes, a teammate, and openly gay Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin. Cruz also confirmed to the newspaper that he believes same-sex couples in Puerto Rico should have the freedom to marry:

““The gay community should have the same rights as the heterosexual community, and I want to be part of that movement to make that happen here.”

I must confess that when I first read this story, I couldn’t help but think about David Pickup, NARTH’s hapless new spokesman, who promises in a comical video to help men “Work OUT of Homosexuality.” In the video, Pickup plugs his pray-away-the-gay workout regimen, saying that he offers “life coaching to supplement reparative therapy.” (If you haven’t seen it before, you simply must watch Pickup’s video below and listen to him tell you how much he loves “helping other men be men!”) He also claims that men who are “dealing with homosexual issues” need to “go deep” and “understand that below the homosexual issues lies a lack of his own inherent masculinity and manhood.”

I’d like to hear David Pickup tell Orlando Cruz, who’s currently ranked the no. 4 featherweight boxer in the world, that there’s anything lacking about his manhood. Better yet, Pickup could prove his own manhood — not to mention the efficacy of his “ex-gay” workout — by stepping into the ring against Cruz himself. Anyone want to bet how long such a match would last?

In all seriousness — welcome out, Orlando. Congratulations on making history, but much more importantly, on loving yourself, owning your identity, and embracing your truth.