Orlando Cruz wants to win the WBO lightweight title from Terry Flanagan in Cardiff on Saturday “for all the gay athletes in the world”.
Puerto Rican Cruz, 35, aims to become the first openly gay boxer to win a world title against England’s Flanagan.
Flanagan, 27, is making the fourth defence of the belt he won last July.
“It’s a big moment for me, my community and my country,” said Cruz, who fought for the WBO featherweight title in 2013, losing to Orlando Salido.
“It’s very important, wonderful, that other people are interested in me as a role model.
“People have told me I’m an inspiration for coming out of the closet. They want to be the same as me – not scared, only happy.
“I want that other [gay] athletes are not scared to walk into the society. Don’t be scared. Be happy with your life, and happy with your decision. All people are the same.”
In 2012, Cruz became the first professional boxer to come out as being gay while still competing.
In the past year, he was won four straight fights boxing as a super-featherweight, although he did box at lightweight last June.
Flanagan, from Manchester, is a clear favourite to prevail at the Motorpoint Arena and is already looking ahead to unification fights.
“It’s heavily rumoured that Anthony Crolla and Jorge Linares will rematch in the new year [Venezuela’s Linares won the WBA belt from Flanagan’s fellow Mancunian last September],” said Flanagan.
“Me and Crolla in Manchester would be huge if he avenged Linares. But we’ve offered the fight to Anthony’s team before and I really don’t think they want it.
“If I can’t get that unification, I definitely intend to honour my mandatory against [unbeaten Puerto Rican] Felix Verdejo early in the new year.”
Flanagan added that Cruz’s personal life did not interest him and that he is merely another opponent.
“Look, it was very brave of Orlando to come out, but I’m not interested in his sexuality, I’m only interested in him as a boxer,” said Flanagan, who is unbeaten in 31 professional fights.
“He’s won his last five, three by stoppage. He’s got to be respected but I’m going to deal with him.”
Also on the card, Birmingham’s Tommy Langford fights Sheffield’s Sam Sheedy for the vacant British middleweight title.
Former Olympian Tom Stalker faces a third match at lightweight against Welshman Craig Evans, the first two having ended in draws.
And Welsh light-middleweight prospect Liam Williams aims to impress against Hungary’s Gabor Gorbics.
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/boxing/38105211