Puerto Rican featherweight boxer Orlando Cruz released a statement saying he“is a proud gay man’.

Cruz told The Associated Press in an interview that he is relieved about his decision but had initial reservations.

“I developed physically and mentally to take such a big step in my life and in my profession, which is boxing, knowing that it would have pros and cons, highs and lows in this sport that is so macho,” he said. “I kept this hidden for many, many years.”

Cruz said he met with psychologists and others before making the announcement, adding he has the full support of his family, trainer and manager. He praised his mother and sister for their unconditional love and said his father has always backed him.

“Like every father, he wants his son to be a full-blooded man,” Cruz said. “But he is aware of my preference, my taste.”

Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesman for the U.S.-based National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, praised Cruz for his decision and said it breaks stereotypes that gay people are not involved in sports like boxing.

“It also gives a lot of hope to young gays who can see in him the integrity and bravery to be who you are and face a society that is often intolerant, especially in this type of sport,” he said.

Some Twitter messages expressed concern for Cruz’s safety and wondered whether other boxers will be reluctant to fight him. Dommys Delgado, president of the Boxing Commission of Puerto Rico, brushed aside those comments.

Cruz, who turned pro shortly after the Sydney Olympics in 2000, has been boxing since he was seven and has won seven national titles and seven international gold medals.

He’s scheduled to fight Jorge Pazos in Florida on Friday, October 19.

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