Third Man in the Ring: The Referee

Boxing Referee - Joe Cortez - Cortez moved to Puerto Rico during his childhood. Living there, he became fluent in Spanish. Cortez had a good amateur boxing career, winning various Golden Gloves tournaments from 1960 to 1962. In 1963, at the minimum age of eighteen, he jumped into the professional boxing ranks. Cortez had a record of eighteen wins and one defeat as a professional boxer. Unable to secure a world title shot, however, he retired from boxing after only nineteen professional fights.

Beginning in the early 1970s, Cortez started working as a referee. During the 1980s, he took on the responsibility to referee some important, but not big, fights.

As eminent referees Richard Steele and Mills Lane retired at the dawn of the 21st century, Cortez became one of Nevada and New York's preferred boxing referees for world title fights. He has refereed over 170 world title bouts, among which figure the first Oscar de la Hoya-Julio César Chávez meeting, and the match that saw 45-year-old George Foreman become the oldest World Heavyweight Champion in history. Asked by Telemundo personnel to give a prediction about the first de la Hoya-Chávez meeting prior to the fight taking place, he simply answered "I can't make any predictions", as referees are not allowed to do that before a fight (doing so might indicate favoritism towards one of the combatants).

Cortez still referees major boxing events, and his catchphrase during pre-fight instructions, "(I am) fair but firm!" (also said as "I'm fair but I'm firm!") is now a copyrighted trademark. Cortez also gives children boxing instructions and has a website "fairbutfirm" that he teaches on how to become a referee.The first and only school for referees.

He also appears in the film Rocky Balboa as the referee in the exhibition bout between Balboa and the fictional champion Mason "The Line" Dixon played by the professional boxer Antonio Tarver.

He is best described by John Chavez of Boxing Confidential as "a long-time, over-the-hill, ten years past his prime, blunder-filled referee"
@ratyz5 (7831)
Philippines
September 21, 2008 12:47am CST
In most competitive sports, usually being done inside a ring, there is an official who watches a game or a match closely to ensure that the rules are adhered to by the participants. The referee. The referee most probably has that great responsibility to judge the things that are going on within a match. His decision to interfere would probably determine whether one of the participants could box again or his hesitation might lead to more serious consequences, perhaps rendering an athlete incapable of doing their sport for the rest of their lives. Of course, with such responsibility, they are also at risk when they are in the ring and officiating. They might get hit along their duty that would also render them incapable of doing their duty. Suppose they also work out to catch up with the competitors endurance? One of the possible things that I could think of that boxing referees have to know aside from the rules to implement and to call off a match when things look grim for one of the boxers would be to know the language of the boxers who would be fighting. I mean, yeah that's obvious but, if perhaps the ref didn't know the language of a particular boxer, he might have to dive in to interfere a match and then gets a lucky punch from one of the boxers... of course, they'll just have to know the language of the boxers participating.. then again, who knows that more nationalities participate? More languages for the ref to learn?
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@bjcyrix (6857)
• Philippines
21 Sep 08
Hiya! Id have to say that there is always a 'third man' in everything. In the ring, like you have mentioned, its the referee. He does call the shots and what he says would be the official decision regardless of what the cameras and audience might see otherwise. Good thing there are the judges also. Only problem with this is that when the judges are more particular of one of the boxers than the other. There might also be political biases like pleasing the crowds and promoters more than who actually deserved to win. Anyway, back to the referees, they do decide if the match will still continue, or if the boxers still seem to be fit to fight but I dont think they render an athlete incapable of doing their sport for the rest of their lives. That would be the doctors' decision or the athlete himself Risks, yeah definitely, somehow like playing dodgeball. Being able to get close to see the action but be at a distance just enough to avoid being hit. Work out? I guess but that would depend on the referee's preference and health regimen. Language?really?what for? Words arent usually used when fighting in the ring. Perhaps when they do get hit or get a hit they can utter their pain or pleasure, but those are usually just syllables. No need to learn the boxers native language for that..right?
@bjcyrix (6857)
• Philippines
22 Sep 08
Racism, yeah that definitely puts a mark. Ah, you meant it like that. I mean yeah, they do have the decision if the fighters are still capable of fighting. Its kinda like having authority over everything especially the fighters' lives, isnt it? Most but not all though..still it just depends on the individual. "Running" sports, the coaches doesnt need to run with the players but I cant say the same for the referees though Well, they might not need to know the native language of the boxers. It might look different to some. I mean, in the situation that you've given, if the referee says 'commands' in one native language and also not say that on the other boxers native language, wouldnt some take offense? Guess maybe its more appropriate if the referee and the boxers know a common language You're welcome.^_^
2 people like this
@ratyz5 (7831)
• Philippines
21 Jun 09
I guess refs get taught to speak appropriate language used in fights but, not so much when it comes to natural conversations.. as if they would with the fighters that they mostly break apart whenever they clinch or raise their hands if ever they become the winner of the match.. only needs to say what they need to say, I guess.
1 person likes this