LAS VEGAS — RingTV.com caught up to referee Joe Cortez last Friday night at the Mandalay Bay Hotel for this Q&A one day prior to the controversial majority decision victory by RING No. 1 pound-for-pound and eight-division titleholder Manny Pacquiao over RING No. 5-rated pound-for-pound WBO/WBA lightweight beltholder Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand.
It was the 68-year-old Cortez who officiated the first bout of the Pacquiao-Marquez trilogy, which ended in a draw in 2004 and preceded Pacquiao’s split-decision win over Marquez in 2008.
Cortez spoke to RingTV.com after having worked a 10-round bout on Friday, his first action since working the controversial fourth-round knockout by RING No. 2-rated pound-for-pound Floyd Mayweather Jr. (42-0, 26 KOs) over Victor Ortiz (29-3-2, 22 KOs) on Sept. 17. The loss cost Ortiz his WBC welterweight title.
The end of Mayweather-Ortiz came after Ortiz’s repeated attempts to apologize for headbutting Mayweather left him open for a shot by Mayweather.
With Cortez nearby, Ortiz failed to protect himself when Mayweather nailed him first with a jarring left hook and then a powerful, straight right hand that sent Ortiz sprawling to his back. Ortiz rolled over and tried to get up, but did not rise in time to beat Cortez’s 10-count.
Cortez shared his thoughts about the Mayweather-Ortiz, as well as his opinion on whether instant replay — used under certain circumstances in Las Vegas — should be considered as a universal tool in the sport of boxing.
RingTV.com: Can you share your thoughts on why you did not stop Pacquiao-Marquez I in the first round after Marquez was dropped for the third time?
Joe Cortez: When Marquez went down that third time, Pacquiao threw that last punch, and then, as Marquez was hanging on the ropes, he got hit with another shot.
So I was ready to stop it when he went down the third time, but I saw in his eyes that he was still sharp. That last shot, when Marquez was down, it didn’t look like a real hard shot.
It was maybe more hard on the shoulder than on the face. So I just felt like he wasn’t fully done 100 percent, and he looked at me with his eyes sharp like, “Are you going to stop it or are you going to let it go?”
And I looked at him and I kept counting. This way, I gave him an opportunity to either stay down or get up. And he got up. He got up, and he showed me that he still had something left.
RingTV.com: Have you thought about what might have happened had you stopped the Pacquiao-Marquez I?
JC: Well, Marquez has the heart of a champion and the heart of a tiger. He’ll go down, but he’ll get up like a true champion.
Pacquiao? What else can you say about Pacquiao? I’ve had him on about four different occasions, and that’s another guy with the heart of a lion who comes to fight.
I say to myself, “Thank God that I was the referee in their first fight.” Because had I been another referee, I don’t know if another referee would have let it go after the three knockdowns.
But because I opted to let the fight continue, here we are going into a trilogy. But this is the kind of fight that boxing needs. These are the kinds of fighters boxing needs — fighters like Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.
RingTV.com: With tonight being your first time back in action since Mayweather-Ortiz, what are your thoughts about the ending of that fight?
JC: Listen, I did what I had to do. Victor Ortiz, you know, it’s a shame that he opted to go with the headbutts and whatnot. He created a bad situation for him, for Floyd Mayweather and for myself.
Because noboby was a winner that night. It was not the kind of ending that the fans wanted to see. I think that Ortiz is a nice young man, and I like him as a person. I’ve refereed his fights in the past.
But when a fighter gets to a point where he’s bewildered and doesn’t know what to do and he can’t think straight when he starts getting pummeled and starts repeatedly getting hit with hard right hands by Mayweather… that just wasn’t the thing to do.