Champ's camp applauds referee Cortez's selection

Official has reputation for `letting fighters fight'

Rahman-Lewis notebook


November 15, 2001|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS -- Referee Joe Cortez, a man known for allowing fighters to dictate a physical pace, has been named the third man in the ring for the Hasim Rahman-Lennox Lewis rematch Saturday night.

Cortez is most recently remembered for allowing John Ruiz extra time to recover from a low blow against Evander Holyfield in their rematch. Cortez's action in that fight, won by Ruiz, may have cost him the nod as referee for the Bernard Hopkins-Felix Trinidad fight in September.

Ruiz, like Trinidad, is Puerto Rican. So is Cortez, which prompted Hopkins to decline his services for the bout. But the fact that Cortez allows fighters to fight, as boxers say, pleases the Rahman camp.

"He lets you fight," said Rahman's co-manager, Stan Hoffman. "He's an excellent referee, definitely one of the top referees in the game."

At it again?

In August, Rahman sparked a scuffle in an ESPN studio when he told Lewis "it was gay of you" to force a rematch by taking the issue to court. Lewis took it to mean Rahman was questioning his sexuality, which, at the time, Rahman said he wasn't doing.

Yesterday, however, Rahman may have done it again.

A reporter asked Rahman if he was trying to get under Lewis' skin, similar to how Lewis got under Holyfield's before they fought. Lewis called Holyfield a hypocrite for espousing Christianity while fathering several children out of wedlock.

"How many children does Lennox have?" Rahman asked.

"None," a reporter replied.

"Oh," Rahman said, to laughter and applause.

Asked later what he meant, Rahman replied, "What do you think?"

Lewis an enigma

When Emanuel Steward was trainer for Thomas Hearns, he knew what to expect. But Steward, now training Lewis, said the latter is unpredictable.

"When he gets into the ring, and he gets to dancing, we're all kind of waiting to see what's going to happen," Steward said. "That's what makes Lennox an enigma to all of us: You never know what he's going to do."

Lewis' future

"I will go on record and say I will retire if I lose to this man," Lewis told a small group of reporters Tuesday. "But that's not written in stone because you guys might bring me up on it."

Pitching in

Promoter Don King announced that Rahman has donated $500,000 toward disaster relief in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I hope to do even more," said Rahman, who also has pledged an undisclosed portion of his $10 million purse for this fight toward helping victims of the tragedies.

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