Inducted on November 12, 1998
The sport of boxing requires several ingredients: the fighters, a venue,a commission to oversee the fight, promoters, judges and, of course, referees. One of the most outstanding referees is Joe Cortez. A referee for more than 20 years, Joe has seen the best and worst of fight cards. When it comes to the best, he has refereed Oscar De La Hoya, Julio Caesar Chavez, Mike Tyson, Roberto Duran, George Foreman and Lennox Lewis, to name a few. When it comes to the worst, they remain forgettable.
Joe was born and raised in New York City in Spanish Harlem, and lived in Puerto Rico for eight years. Like many young men in the neighborhood, Joe and his brother Mike gravitated to boxing. They were a team in amateur bouts and Golden Gloves tournaments and continued to compete professionally.
Joe’s amateur boxing career as a bantamweight:
1961 and 1962 Spanish Golden Gloves Champion
1960 and 1961 New York Golden Gloves Champion
1961 National Golden Gloves Champion
1961 Eastern Golden Gloves Champion
1963-1967 Professional boxing career as a bantamweight
1971 Last professional fight in La Cancha de Country Club in Puerto Rico with Sal La Chapel de La Republica Dominicana. Total: 19 pro fights. Record: 18-1.
Stopped fighting because of lack of boxing opportunities at that time.
Joe married his wife Sylvia in 1965. Moved to Puerto Rico in 1969 with his wife and two daughters, Cindy and Sandy, and started a 13-year career in the hotel industry. He worked his way up the ranks at the EI Conquistador Hotel in Fajardo, from a desk clerk to executive assistant manager. In 1976, he moved back to New York and worked with the parent company: EI San Juan Hotel Corporation as assistant casino operating manager for all three properties: EI San Juan, The Palace and EI Conquistador. In 1982, he ventured onto an entrepreneurial career, purchasing a deli in Yonkers, N.Y. In Yonkers he became involved in the community and gave his support to the Task Force on Crack and many PAL events to encourage kids to say off drugs by speaking to them at schools throughout the state. He also sponsored Project Return for youths making a return into the community. From there he developed and implemented a successful community vision outreach program with leading ophthalmologists in New York, New Jersey, Las Vegas and Chicago to provide those in need with eye care service. He participated in many health fairs along with the Lions Club. He is very active with the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and participates in many of their fund raising events.
Upon returning to New York in 1976, he became involved as a boxing referee. He spent six months as an amateur referee and was pushed to the professional level by his mentor Pat Mascia. He applied and received his first license from New York State and applied with then Boxing Commissioner Jersey Joe Walcott of New Jersey. He now holds a license in Nevada. From there on he has refereed 109 World Title fights in over 11 countries. His dream was to do just one championship bout.
Joe and Sylvia (his wife of 33 years) now live in Las Vegas along with their daughters: Cindy, 30, Sandy, 29, Christine, 18, and seven-year old grandson, Rickey. He commutes back and forth to New Jersey while developing his community vision outreach program. His family had a tragic auto accident in California in 1996, where his daughter Cindy and his wife were injured. The accident caused Cindy serious spinal cord injury and she is now a quadriplegic. Because of Cindy’s fighting spirit and determination to get better, Joe’s focus is now on creating awareness of spinal cord injuries. His dream is to raise funds for spinal cord injury research. While Cindy was a patient in Loma Linda University Medical Center Rehabilitation Unit, she received an encouraging call from Christopher Reeve, who was touched by her focus and determination. Joe, Sylvia, their family and friends are committed to helping raise funds toward spinal cord research, his new project in life, because Cindy will walk again with God’s help.
“Boxing has afforded me a spot in the limelight and I intend to use the opportunity to help set a good role model to the youth and minorities and help wherever I can,” Joe replied during a recent interview with a leading magazine. He was invited to the White House and met President Clinton during the unveiling of the POW stamp with country singer Pat Murphy (whom he manages), where Joe was able to present the President with a Boxing Glove award (not bad for a young boy from Spanish Harlem). Joe was also a Deputy Constable in the city of North Las Vegas.
Joe, considered one of the top referees in the boxing industry, is looking forward to growing with the sport.
Joe Cortez has worked as a boxing referee with the New York State Athletic Commission and Nevada State Athletic Commission. He was elected into the World Boxing Hall of Fame: Class of 2007. His catchphrase during pre-fight instructions is “I’m fair but I’m firm.”
- 1960 Joe Cortez of the Boys Club of NY won the New York Daily News Golden Gloves‘ novice championship at flyweight over Pablo Acevedo of the Salem Crescent AC by decision.
- 1961 of the Boys Club of NY won the New York Daily News Golden Gloves’ open championship at bantamweight over Angelo Soto of the Salem Crescent AC by decision.
- 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.
- 1962 Spanish Golden Gloves Champion.
- ringsidereport.com interview with Cortez