JOE CORTEZ BIO

World  Renowned Boxing Referee, Joe Cortez was born and raised in Spanish  Harlem in 1943.  Joe had an outstanding amateur boxing career, winning several Golden Gloves tournaments from 1960 to 1962.  Joe was last and most likely the only fighter to knock two opponents out in the same night in 1961 during the Eastern Golden Gloves Championships.  Joe and his brother, Mike Cortez, were the only brothers from the Boys Club of New York to ever win the New York  Open Golden Gloves Championships, Eastern Golden Gloves Championships and National Golden Gloves Championships in the same year in different weight classes.

  • 1960 Joe Cortez of the Boys Club of NY won the New York Daily News Golden Gloves novice championship at flyweight
  • 1961 of the Boys Club of NY won the New York Daily News Golden Gloves open championship at bantamweight.
  • 1961 won the New York Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions at bantamweight by KO over Clyde Tyler. Joe and Mike Cortez are the only brothers who won this tournament.
  • 1961 won the Intercity Golden Gloves championship at bantamweight by decision over Oscar German of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • 1962 Spanish Golden Gloves Champion.

Joe turned pro at the age of eighteen. He had an outstanding record of 18 wins and one defeat as a professional boxer, and the loss was to Georgie Foster from Ohio. Some of his fights are not recorded due to lack of reporting fights out of Mexico.  Unable to secure a World Title shot, he was discouraged and retired from boxing due to the lack of moving up the ranks to secure a World Title Fight. Joe was introduced and mentored in his amateur boxing career by the great Gasper "Indian" Ortega.  Former Amateur Boxing Referee, Pat Mascia who refereed Joe during his amateur career in the Golden Gloves Tournaments, Pat, planted a seed in Joe to become an amateur boxing referee when he retired from boxing.  Just six months into the amateur ranks as a referee, Deputy Commissioner, Frank Morris for the New York State Athletic Commission saw Joe Cortez referee two Golden Gloves championship fights in 1977 and was impressed by his performance and asked Joe to become a professional referee as he had such talent as the third man in the ring.  
Joe Cortez had a well rounded career in many different fields outside the ring.  Owning and operating an Exterminating company and after selling the company, moving to Puerto Rico, where Joe began working at The El Conquistador Hotel first as a room clerk and moving up to the Executive Assistant manager and spending eight years there. moving back to New York where he started work as a Casino Operations Manager for the El San Juan Hotel Corporation and continued his career for another 7 years.  Then from 1981-1987 he owned and operated a delicatessen in Yonkers New York.  After selling the deli, Joe worked with several doctors in the field of Ophthalmology in New York, New Jersey and Nevada.  Joe Cortez was appointed as a Deputy Constable in North Las Vegas from 1995-1999.  Joe was appointed by two governors (Gibbons and Gwinn) to serve on the State Nursing Board as a consumer member, serving two terms in Nevada.  Always finding time throughout his career to give back to the community. 


Joe Cortez started as a referee in 1977 in New York and was recruited to Nevada by the State Athletic Commission in 1992.. Joe Cortez became one of New York and Nevada's preferred boxing referees for World Title Fights. He has refereed over 175 World Title Bouts, among which figure the first Oscar De La Hoya vs Julio Cesar Chavez, 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. 

Cortez still refereed major boxing events, and his catchphrase during pre-fight instructions, "I'm Fair But I'm Firm!" is now a registered trademark. 

He appeared 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 Bandares and Woody Harrelson and "Undisputed" with Wesley Snipes.

Joe Cortez was inducted into the in New Jersey Boxing Hall Of Fame in 1998, World Boxing Hall Of Fame 2000, the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in 2011 and Nevada Boxing Hall Of Fame in 2013.  He retired from refereeing in September 2012 after Canelo Alvarez vs Josesito Lopez fight.


Most recent career opportunities include having been a boxing analyst with ESPN and DAZN, Joe is once again licensed with the Nevada State Athletic Commission as a Review Official for the "Instant Replay".  You can see Joe Cortez actively on Facebook and other Social Media platforms through his shows, Fair But Firm and The Joe Cortez Show.  Joe Cortez created the space for the Nevada Boxing Hall Of Fame at the Boulevard Mall in Las Vegas.  Keep your eye on Joe Cortez as he has big things coming your way soon!