Time to go Joe? Incompetent Cortez should retire
By David Douse (July 1, 2008) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor)  
An inept and indecisive performance by supposedly topline referee Joe Cortez in his handling of the Humberto Soto/Francisco Lorenzo debacle has left much more than a bad taste in the mouth of many boxing fans who were witness to a display of professional incompetence which has rendered a completely unfair decision in a fight that not only cost the dominant boxer an imminent victory – and an interim world title – but also an undeserved slur on his reputation.

If Humberto Soto should wake up today feeling cheated and seriously aggrieved at the farcical ending to a contest in which he was clearly in control and undoubtedly on the point of winning by stoppage, that should come as no surprise at all when one considers the real significance of the relatively minor indiscretion which he did in fact commit, and the disproportionate penalty he suffered as a consequence. Whilst it is true that Soto did in fact let his hands go whilst Lorenzo had dropped to his knees to avoid further punishment, there is no doubt that Soto was in fact in the process of letting go a combination which was (a) difficult to stop, and (b) did not properly connect anyway and could only have made glancing contact to the back of Lorenzo's head at worst.

In the general scheme things this kind of rules infraction should probably have drawn a warning from the referee and possibly the deduction of a point on the scorecards, with time also being given to the disadvantaged boxer to recover. In this case, especially where there had been no prior warnings for infractions, the whole scene seemed to have been grossly mismanaged and characterised by hesitation and indecision on the part of Joe Cortez who, after all, was supposed to be the man in charge. If Cortez was convinced that Soto had committed an egregious foul worthy of immediate disqualification why did he need to engage in lengthy consultation with ringside officials from the WBC and the Nevada State Athletic Commission? Surely this kind of decision falls squarely within the purview of the referee alone. An authoritative and in control referee should most certainly be able to make that kind of decision without engaging in a committee meeting to arrive at an outcome.

The rights and wrongs of the matter notwithstanding, it is also a mystery to me how Cortez could leave the apparently injured Francisco Lorenzo (all question of his excessive and unseemly theatrics aside) rolling around on the canvas unattended by either the ringside physician or his own corner for quite some minutes whilst the ‘committee meeting was in progress’. If a fighter's welfare is the paramount consideration in the handling of a contest, Cortez fell woefully short of his own stated standard. In this most important matter his lack of attention to a supposedly stricken fighter in the ring made a sad mockery of his words when interviewed after the fight in which he several times stated on camera that boxers’ welfare and safety must come first.

Proud of his 'firm but fair' moniker, Cortez demonstrated on the night that he was far from firm (what about his apparent stepping in to stop the fight in Soto’s favour earlier in the round and seeming change of heart?) and the unfairness of this situation visited upon the unfortunate Humberto Soto speaks for itself. Perhaps the time has come for someone to refresh Joe Cortez in the art of refereeing a fight, and perhaps too, have a quiet whisper in his ear to the effect that it is the boxers themselves are actually the stars of the show, and most definitely not the third man in the ring. Cortez' shameless mugging for the cameras at every available opportunity seems to indicate to this writer that he might well have lost sight of the real reason for his presence in the squared circle. Time to go Joe?

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