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Joe Cortez

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Joe Cortez
Born (1945-10-13) October 13, 1945 (age 78)
Other namesASJ
Boxing record
Total fights14
Wins by KO2

Joe Cortez (born October 13, 1945) is an American former boxing referee who has officiated in many important world title bouts.[1] He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2011.


Cortez is of Puerto Rican descent.[2] He had a successful amateur boxing career, winning various Golden Gloves tournaments from 1960 to 1962. In 1963, Joe turned pro at the age of eighteen. He had a record of ten wins and one defeat as a professional boxer, and the loss was to Georgie Foster from Ohio. He retired from boxing after only eleven professional fights. Cortez moved to Puerto Rico in 1969, working at The El Conquistador Hotel there; he worked his way up to Executive Assistant manager. Living there, he became fluent in Spanish. In 1977, he moved back to New York where he started work as a Casino Operations Manager for the El San Juan Hotel, one of the three properties in Puerto Rico.

Beginning in the 1977, Cortez started working as a referee. During the 1980s, he took on the responsibility to referee some major Championship fights. During this time he was the third man in the ring in several professional Mike Tyson and Roberto Durán 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, Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe's first title fight 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 favouritism towards one of the combatants).

Cortez still refereed 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 registered trademark. Cortez also gives boxing classes and has a website www.Fairbutfirm.com, which teaches someone how to become a referee and talk show host.

He 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, as well as in I Spy with Eddie Murphy and in Play It To The Bone with Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson.

The last "Fight of the Year" that he refereed was Amir Khan vs. Marcos Maidana in 2010. He called it "one of the most outstanding, skillful and exciting" championship fights that he refereed in his career.[3]

Cortez was inducted into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame in November 1998 and into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2011. He retired from refereeing in September 2012 after Canelo Alvarez vs Josesito Lopez fight, and is currently a boxing analyst for ESPN Sports.

In 2017, Cortez assisted Conor McGregor with his transition to boxing for his super fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Cortez was acting as the referee during Conor's sparring sessions while training for the bout.[4]

In 2020, at the age of 75, Cortez was hospitalized after contracting COVID-19 and pneumonia but said "...I assure my people in Puerto Rico that I will return.”[5]

Professional boxing record[edit]


14 fights 13 wins 1 loss
By knockout 2 0
By decision 11 1
No. Result Record Opponent Type Round, time Date Location Notes
14 Win 13–1 Dominican Republic Sal Lacheppele PTS 4/4 Feb 28, 1970 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico
13 Win 12–1 Puerto Rico Durango Kid PTS 6/6 Mar 1, 1966 United States Sunnyside Garden, Sunnyside, Queens, New York, USA
12 Win 11–1 Puerto Rico Hector Rodriguez UD 6/6 Feb 10, 1966 United States Exposition Building, Portland, Maine, USA
11 Win 10–1 United States Angel Rivera PTS 6/6 Feb 1, 1966 United States Sunnyside Garden, Sunnyside, Queens, New York, USA
10 Win 9–1 Mexico Luis Molinares KO 3/4 Jul 31, 1965 Mexico Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico
9 Win 8–1 Guam Paul Sebastian PTS 4/4 Feb 16, 1965 United States Civic Auditorium, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
8 Win 7–1 Japan Katsutomi Takano UD 4/4 Oct 27, 1964 United States Civic Auditorium, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
7 Win 6–1 Guam Paul Sebastian PTS 4/4 Oct 13, 1964 United States Civic Auditorium, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
6 Win 5–1 Guam Paul Sebastian PTS 4/4 Sep 22, 1964 United States Honolulu International Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
5 Loss 4–1 United States George Foster PTS 6/6 May 25, 1963 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, USA
4 Win 4–0 Mexico Eliseo García PTS 4/4 Mar 9, 1963 Mexico Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico
3 Win 3–0 Mexico Cosme Rodriguez PTS 4/4 Feb 26, 1963 Mexico Auditorio Municipal, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
2 Win 2–0 United States Bobby Harmon PTS 4/4 Jan 28, 1963 United States Civic Center, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
1 Win 1–0 Puerto Rico Tony Salgado KO 2/4 Dec 3, 1962 United States Bakersfield Dome, Bakersfield, California, USA Professional debut

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joe Cortez. boxrec.com
  2. ^ "Joe Cortez: otro boricua para la historia. - ¡Arriba! - kooltouractiva.com".
  3. ^ "Cortez on Khan vs. Maidana: 'That fight had it all'". ESPN. 20 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Referee Joe Cortez: McGregor would have been boxing champion". ESPN.com. ESPN. April 25, 2017. Retrieved June 14, 2024.
  5. ^ "Joe Cortez Remains Hospitalized, Still In Good Spirits". FIGHT SPORTS. November 23, 2020. Retrieved August 30, 2022.
  6. ^ BoxRec

External links[edit]

Preceded by New York Daily News Golden Gloves
Novice Flyweight Champion

Succeeded by
Preceded by New York Daily News Golden Gloves
Open Bantamweight Champion

Succeeded by
Preceded by New York Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions
Bantamweight Champion

Succeeded by
Tournament ends
Preceded by Intercity Golden Gloves
Bantamweight Champion

Succeeded by
Tournament lapse until 1977