1st openly gay boxer loses title fight in Las Vegas

Openly gay boxer Orlando Cruz lays on the mat Saturday, Oct. 12, in Las Vegas after being knocked out by Orlando Salido.

Orlando Cruz, the first openly gay fighter in boxing, lost to veteran Orlando Salido after being knocked down in the seventh round.

LAS VEGAS — Orlando Cruz, the first openly gay fighter in boxing, lost his bid for a piece of the featherweight title Saturday night, getting stopped in the seventh round by veteran Orlando Salido.

Cruz, the first openly gay active fighter, was outclassed much of the fight by Salido, who landed the heavier punches throughout before knocking Cruz down with a right hand to the head in the seventh. Cruz was on his knees and couldn't get up as he was counted out at 1:05 of the round.

1st openly gay boxer: Openly gay boxer Orlando Cruz, left, exchanges punches with Orlando Salido on Saturday, Oct. 12, in Las Vegas.AP Photo: Julie Jacobson

Openly gay boxer Orlando Cruz, left, exchanges punches with Orlando Salido on Saturday, Oct. 12, in Las Vegas.

"I went into the corner and he hit me with a good shot," Cruz said. "I thought the fight was close up until then."

Salido, who lost the 126-pound title in his last fight, won it back with an impressive performance against Cruz, a former Olympian from Puerto Rico who last year came out as gay. He took the fight to Cruz and was ahead 59-55 on two scorecards and 58-56 on a third going into the seventh round.

"This is the biggest moment of my life," Salido said. "I won a world title for the fourth time."

Cruz was greeted by a mixture of boos and whistles coming into the ring, with the pro-Mexican crowd that came to cheer on Juan Manuel Marquez against Timothy Bradley in the main event clearly in the corner of Salido, who is from Mexico.

It was the first title fight for Cruz in a 13-year professional career in which he has had mixed success. He fell to 20-3-1 with the loss.

"This is my moment, my time," Cruz said before the fight, clearly relishing his moment in the limelight.

It turned out it wasn't his fight, though, with Salido showing off his ring skills and handling most of what Cruz threw at him. Cruz landed few big punches, though he used his southpaw style to box effectively at times from the outside.

Video: 1st openly gay boxer ready for title shot

Cruz wore rainbow colors on his boxing trunks, his way of showing support for others in the gay and lesbian community.

"This is for all of them," Cruz said. "But this is for me, too. It's a beautiful opportunity for me, and it's my moment."

The trunks have caused some controversy in his native Puerto Rico because the design is a Puerto Rican flag with the rainbow colors in place of the usual colors. But Cruz said his intention was always to honor his country while also making a statement for gay rights.

"Some people are mad at me, but I don't care," he said. "I respect the Puerto Rican flag. There were no bad intentions in the design of the trunks."

The fight was the first title bout for the 32-year-old Cruz, who fought on the Puerto Rican Olympic team in 2000 but has struggled at times as a pro. He lost two straight fights in 2009-10 as he struggled to keep his sexuality private, but says he's been a better and more focused fighter since coming out publicly a year ago.

That showed in his last two outings, both wins, that got him a spot against Salido for the vacant WBO version of the 126-pound crown. It's a fight that would have drawn little attention normally, but was more high profile because Cruz is the first active fighter to declare he is gay.

Cruz said the response to his announcement was mostly positive, with former Olympic teammate Miguel Cotto among those who declared his support for him. He said his mother, who was expected to be ringside for the fight, has been his strongest supporter.

"My mom is my best friend, and the first person I talked to about my relationship," he said. "She cried, but said that I'm her son and she doesn't care about anything else."

Salido said he has no problem with Cruz being gay and has respect for his decision to go public.

"I admire him for coming out. It's courageous," Salido said. "But I am not treating him any differently than any other opponent. When I see him, I see a man standing between me and a third world title."

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