Fair But Firm is a weekly online talkshow hosted by Hall of Fame Referee and TV personality Joe Cortez.
March 04, 2014
This week, Joe Cortez takes you back the 60's and his gym, the Original Gleason's Gym in the Bronx, and shares some gym tales. Also, Joe talks about last weekend's busy fight schedule including Chavez Vera II, Lomachenko and Salido, and Abraham Stieglitz III. Finally, Joe Cortez previews a great Saturday night card headlined by Saul Canelo Alvarez.
Insight and interviews from the man who has refereed over 170 World Championship Fights.
The journey began in Spanish Harlem when, with older brother Mike, Joe Cortez came into boxing while following one of the great latino heroes of the time, welterweight Gaspar "Indian" Orteaga. The two competed at the highest levels of amateur boxing, and became the very first brother tandem to win the National Golden Gloves title at the same time at their respective weight classes. From there, both turned to the pro ranks and while Mike was able to find fights on a regular basis, in the 60's there weren't as many opportunities for bantamweight fighters like Joe Cortez. Joe traveled with Orteaga and fought on some of his undercards but when the "Indian" retired in the mid 60's, Joe followed him soon after having his last professional fight in 1971 and went into the hotel business.
Joe began his long road to the top as a referee in the mid 70's after referee Pat Macia convinced him that his passion for the sport could be a benefit to the sport as the third man in the ring. As one of his first referee assignments, Joe was assigned preliminary fights at a New York Golden Gloves tournament but a snowstorm struck the city and he was quickly thrusted into officiating all 27 bouts on card. He did it so well that he was then awarded the quaterfinals, and championship bouts as a newcomer to refereeing.
Joe then began to officiate pro bouts and throughout the 80's refereed some of the most exciting and successful fighters in history including big fights such as Mike Tyson and Larry Holmes, Marlon Starling and Donald "Cobra" Curry, Terry Norris and Julian Jackson, and one of the most spirited fights in the late 80's, Roberto Duran and Iran Barkley. With each opportunity, Joe Cortez solidified his reputation as a top referee in the sport.
Over the next 2 decades, Joe became a part of boxing history both for the fights and athletes in which he was trusted to officiate, and for his overwhelming dedication and passion for the sport of boxing that was as infectious to anyone within arms reach of him both in and out of the ring. Joe was charged with being a referee in such great fights as Bowe Holyfield 1 and 3, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. when he fought Pernell Whitaker to a draw in Texas, as well as when he fell to a young and hungry Oscar De La Hoya in a changing of the guard in boxing, Floyd Mayweather's gigantic win over the undefeated Brit Ricky Hatton, and when George Foreman became the oldest heavyweight champion in history when he stopped a younger Michael Moorer in 1994.
On June 12th, 2011 in Canastota, New York, Joe Cortez was officially inducted into the most exclusive club in the sport of boxing for his accomplishments in the ring as a referee—The International Boxing Hall of Fame. During his acceptance speech Joe thanked his fellow inductees including Mike Tyson, of whom he refereed 9 of his fights, including his final fight in 2005, as well as Sylvester Stallone, and thanked him for choosing him to play the role of referee in the final fight of the final installment of the Rocky series—Rocky Balboa. Joe also thanked his mentor Gaspar "the Indian" Orteaga and Pat Macia who encouraged him to begin what would ultimately change his life,—becoming a referee. Joe was part of one of the most historic classes inducted to the Hall of Fame, which also included:
While retired from the ring, Joe continues to be involved in the sport of boxing on many levels. You can find him here weekly, delivering his unique insight into the world of boxing, as well as working on ESPN Deportes and ESPN.com providing the same sort of expertise in his own enigmatic way. Joe Cortez has also never stopped his mission to improve the sport of boxing and is always providing creative ways to keep fighters safer and grow the sport worldwide and was widely covered for his great idea to improve judges scoring during figfhts which he proudly labeled the Cortez 20/20. The idea was covered in depth by Ring Magazine in 2012 here. Outside the ring, Joe remains as dedicated as ever to his charity efforts involving underpriveledged youth around the world.
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