HBO boxing analyst Jim Lampley said that he is “proud” of Puerto Rican featherweight Orlando Cruz, calling the man “a hero” for declaring himself “a proud gay man” in October of last year, and then recently announcing his engagement to his partner, Jose Manuel.
“First of all, I think that any male in sports who is brave enough to come out of the closet is a hero, and so Orlando Cruz is already a hero of mine,” said Lampley, whose older half-brother, Fred Trickey, was gay. He died four years ago from an HIV-related illness at age 65.
“I support gay marriage. That’s my social and political position. How could I do otherwise, knowing who my brother was and what I grew up with. I am proud of Cruz, without having met him.”
A 32-year-old who represented his country in the 2000 Olympics, Cruz (20-2-1, 10 knockouts) is scheduled to face Orlando Salido on Oct. 12 as part of the Tim Bradley-Juan Manuel Marquez card on HBO Pay Per View. He has won his last four fights, three of them by knockout, heading into the fight for the WBO’s vacant featherweight belt.
Cruz declared his sexual orientation prior to his Oct. 19 unanimous decision over Jorge Pazos, his third consecutive win since being stopped himself in consecutive losses to Cornelius Lock and Daniel Ponce de Leon.
On Thursday, news broke that Cruz had proposed to Manuel on his Facebook page.
“I want to tell you that you are a very special person in my life. I am a little nervous,” stated Cruz in a Spanish-language video on the social media website. “But I want to tell you and share with your friends and my friends, if you want to marry me. I want you to be part of my life and me be part of yours.”
Manuel accepted Cruz’s proposal in a response video.
Griffth was insulted by Benny Paret, who used a derogatory Spanish slang term for homosexual at the weigh-in before their third bout, and later died from head injuries suffered during a brutal knockout in the 12th round of that fight in New York City on March 24, 1962.
“As soon as I saw the item about Orlando Cruz this morning, I thought to myself, ‘That might be the ideal lead-in to a eulogy for Griffith on the next edition of The Fight Game,'” said Lampley, referring to his next show, which is to air in October.
“As a fight fan when I was a boy, I watched the Griffith-Paret fight. I was a Grifffith fan. And then, years and years later, after I began covering boxing, only then, as an adult covering boxing, did I learn that Griffith was gay. That meant a great deal to me, because my brother was gay.”
Lampley said that he and his brother had different fathers, both of whom were World War II bomber pilots, and that his sibling “came out of the closet at the age of 14 in 1959 in small town in Western, North Carolina, called Hendersonville.”
“My brother was one of the bravest people I’ve ever met, because that’s something that people didn’t do in that day,” said Lampley. “I have grown up with tremendous respect and empathy for gay people. Gay is not a choice. Gay is an identity with which you are born.”
While Lampley said that he could not guarantee that Cruz would be on the next edition of The Fight Game, he said “I’m proud of what he’s doing.”
“I support his right to marry his chosen companion, and I don’t think that it’s going to negatively affect his boxing career in any shape or form. I can’t tell you for sure what’s going to be on The Fight Game. That show will air on Oct. 25,” said Lampley.
“It’s a new show. I would consider having a Griffith piece on the air, and I would consider leading into the Griffith piece by drawing analogies between Cruz, and what he’s doing right now, and what Griffith went through in the 1960s.”
Photos by J. Meric-Gettyimages
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com