Sexagenarians tapped as judges in Pacquiao bout

- Joaquin M. Henson () - March 19, 2005 - 12:00am
Three veteran judges, all in their 60s, make up the panel for the Manny Pacquiao-Erik Morales fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas this Sunday morning (Manila time).

To top it all, another sexagenarian Joe Cortez will be the third man in the ring.

The judges are Chuck Giampa, 62, Dave Moretti, 60, and Paul Smith, 60. Cortez is 61.

How significant is the number six to Pacquiao?

Pacquiao, 26, is 5-6 and has a 67-inch reach. He has figured in six US fights and battled six world champions so far. He has scored six first round knockouts. He won his second world title on a sixth round demolition of Lehlo Ledwaba in 2001. His knockout percentage is .698. He is a 6-5 favorite to beat Morales.

There must be something about the number six that appears to figure in Pacquiao’s history. Will he knock out Morales in the sixth round?

Giampa has worked over 100 title fights since 1987. He was in Manila in 1997 as a judge in World Boxing Council (WBC) featherweight champion Luisito Espinosa’s title defense against Manuel Medina. Giampa was also a judge in title bouts involving Filipinos Ernie Cataluna in 1987 and Eric Jamili in 1998.

What is unsettling about Giampa’s record is an apparent indecisiveness. He scored draws in at least four title fights–Blocker-Starling in 1990, Holyfield-Bowe in 1993, Foreman-Schulz in 1995 and Joppy-Eastman in 2001. Worse, he was the only judge who scored it for Sung Kil Moon in a split decision loss to Jose Bueno in a WBC superflyweight title fight in Korea in 1993.

Moretti has been a judge since 1981. His scorecard had Rolando Navarrete ahead when Rafael (Bazooka) Limon pulled off a dramatic 12th round knockout in a WBC superfeatherweight title fight in Las Vegas in 1982. He was also a judge when Manny Melchor was halted by Ricardo Lopez in a WBC minimumweight champioinship bout in 1993.

Smith has worked over 20 world title fights since 1981. Two of his biggest assignments were the Bobick-Thomas fight for the WBC heavyweight crown in 1986 and the Lewis-Page bout for the World Boxing Association (WBA) heavyweight diadem in 2001.

Cortez was the referee when Pacquiao wrested the International Boxing Federation (IBF) superbantamweight crown from Ledwaba in Las Vegas in 2001. And he also worked Pacquiao’s draw with Juan Manuel Marquez last May.

Cortez came under fire when he never deducted a point from Marquez, who is Hispanic like him, despite issuing four warnings for low blows. Under usual circumstances, a point is taken away from a fighter on his third infraction.

Cortez, however, has been known to be quick to penalize fighters for fouls–if they’re not Hispanic. For instance, he was clearly biased in favor of Puerto Rican countryman John Ruiz in his WBA heavyweight title defense against Kirk Johnson in 2002. Cortez called a knockdown on Johnson even as it looked like Ruiz pushed him in the ninth round. He didn’t appear to see Ruiz hit Johnson with a deliberate headbutt in the fourth but deducted two points from Johnson for low blows. Then in the 10th round, Cortez disqualified Johnson to hand the victory to Ruiz on a silver platter.

Cortez owns and operates a boxing referees school called "Firm But Fair." He has referred at least 3,000 fights and over 160 world title bouts in more than 25 years on the job.

Cortez has worked seven title fights involving Filipinos. The first was when Bobby Berna stopped Seung In Suh for the IBF superbantamweight crown in 1983. He also worked Lopez’ wins over Pretty Boy Lucas, Melchor and Ala Villamor. Cortez was the referee when Marco Antonio Barrera stopped Jesus Salud in 2000, when Pacquiao beat Ledwaba and when Pacquiao drew with Marquez.

Cortez, one of four boys, was born in New York’s Spanish Harlem where he was raised by his mother. He grew up without a father and embraced Mexican fighter Gaspar Ortega as his role model. It was Ortega who influenced Cortez to box. Cortez, who once fell off a 20-foot wall and broke his jaw, won several Golden Gloves titles as an amateur then compiled a 18-1 record as a pro before retiring in 1974 to manage the El Conquistador Hotel in Puerto Rico.

After a year in the hotel, Cortez went back to New York and became a boxing referee.

Cortez said among ring referees of all-time, he admires Arthur Mercante Sr., Tony Perez and Zach Clayton.

A low point in Cortez’ career came in the David Gonzales-Wangila Napunyi welterweight fight on the Vegas strip in 1994. Cortez stopped the fight in the ninth round as Gonzales snapped Napunyi/s head with two vicious blows. Napunyi later collapsed in his dressing room and died two days after of a massive blood clot in the brain.

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