The country’s first openly gay boxer will take to the ring to honor the memory of those killed in the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.
Orlando Cruz, who came out in 2012, will face off against Alejandro “Alex’’ Valdez, three days after the one-month anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting that left 49 people dead and 53 more injured, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The July 15 fight will take place in Kissimmee, Florida, roughly 30 minutes from the nightclub.
The boxer, 35, will be a part of a 49-bell salute to each of the Pulse victims, and is set to wear a pair of specially-designed trunks as a tribute. “It is a surprise,” he said of the design in a July 9 interview with the Sentinel.
Cruz, who lives in Puerto Rico with his husband, told BuzzFeed that he was close friends with Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, one of the Pulse shooting victims.
“It really affected me and made me angry to see that among so many dead was my close friend,” he told BuzzFeed. “Gay people have rights just like everybody else and everyone needs to realize that we deserve to live openly and happy.”
On Tuesday, Cruz visited the memorial that has been erected outside of Pulse. Photos of the boxer kneeling beside the makeshift shrine were posted on Twitter.
After his visit to Pulse on Tuesday, Cruz announced that he was helping to launch a Latino voting awareness campaign in Florida, according to BuzzFeed.
The boxer has said he felt both sad and angry in the days after the shooting.
“I am very angry because people are homophobic, so they attacked my community,” he told the Sentinel. “They attacked me.”