Boxer Orlando Cruz has announced he is gay. The Puerto Rican fighter considered the secret a “distraction” in his boxing career.

Cruz, 31, who was a member of the 2000 Olympic team, is 18-2-1 and has nine knockouts as a professional, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Cruz issued a statement Wednesday night, according to the Associated Press: “I’ve been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself. I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career. I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”

Speaking to the LA Times in a phone interview, Cruz explained that he decided to address the topic now “because I want to be free and not carry this on and on with myself. I want to let the people see who I really am, to be free, to let people understand.”

Cruz is the only known professional boxer to come out.

Since his announcement, he told the LA Times, he’s received “unconditional, 100 percent” positive feedback through Facebook and Twitter and from his Olympic teammates.

“I was physically and mentally prepared for whatever the reaction would be before this, and I can tell you from the response, this will never bother me again,” Cruz said. “I feel comfortable with myself.”

“It should show something for itself: That I have courage, I’m a warrior in the ring,” Cruz said, hoping to break some stereotypes. “It should not diminish me. I’ve fought with the best, and I want to be a world champion.”

Gay marriage is not permitted in Puerto Rico and the boxer did not want to say whether he is in a relationship.

“The gay community should have the same rights as the heterosexual community, and I want to be part of that movement to make that happen here,” Cruz said.

"The fact of the matter is I’m happy. I did this for myself. I believe those two losses I had were part of this big distraction I was going through. It’s not there anymore. I’m glad I’m past that."