Retired referee Eddie Cotton has died from COVID-19.
Cotton, 72, died early Friday morning. The Paterson, New Jersey, native had been hospitalized for more than a week.
Cotton was a professional referee from 1992-2014 in a boxing career that spanned 40 years. His biggest assignment came in June 2002, when Cotton officiated the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson heavyweight title fight at The Pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee.
Cotton was the referee for more than 40 world title fights overall, before retiring from officiating in 2014. He later worked for the IBF and was part of that sanctioning organization’s board of directors.
Longtime New Jersey boxing commissioner Larry Hazzard fondly reflected on Cotton’s integrity and gentle nature.
“I hold Eddie in the highest esteem,” Hazzard told BoxingScene.com. “I thought he was one of the best referees in the world. I would give him assignments without hesitation because I knew that he was fair, he was honest. He had the highest level of integrity. And he was always receptive to constructive criticism, which was rare because he knew what he was doing.”
Hazzard, who was brought in by the Tennessee Athletic Commission to oversee officials for the Lewis-Tyson fight, assigned Cotton as the referee. Cotton also was the referee for such notable bouts as Riddick Bowe-Andrew Golota II, George Foreman-Shannon Briggs, Shane Mosley-Jesse James Leija, Hasim Rahman-James Toney and Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson II.
Cotton was a referee for many amateur matches for 12 years prior to officiating his first professional bout in February 1992 in Atlantic City. The New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame inducted Cotton in November 2008.
Randy Neumann, a heavyweight contender in the 1970s, worked with Cotton for many years, first as a referee, then as a fellow member of the IBF’s board of directors. Neumann commended Cotton’s kindness and his willingness to help young referees learn the trade.
“He was always a friendly face and a very personable guy,” Neumann said. “Obviously, he loved boxing. We worked a lot together, refereeing in Jersey and now with the IBF. And we played a lot of golf together. But he knew boxing inside and out. As a referee, he had an advantage, like me, of being a big, strong guy who could work with heavyweights. You’ve got to be a big, strong guy to handle heavyweights, because after the third round they’re not gonna break. They’re gonna be clinching and breathing heavily, so you’ve gotta move them.
“That’s why he was good with the heavyweights. And he moved very well. He was a hell of a referee. And he was very active with the IBF. He was very thoughtful and had some very good ideas. It was just a pleasure working with him all those years. He’ll be missed.”
Away from boxing, Cotton served as the director of the Paterson Housing Authority and was known for donating his time to charitable causes in his hometown. A graduate of Eastside High School, Cotton also worked as a councilman in Paterson, one of New Jersey’s largest cities, and became its first black city council president.
“He was just a very likeable guy,” Hazzard said. “He was just an all-around great person. He’s gonna be greatly missed. This really saddens me.”
Cotton is survived by his wife, Ruby, a daughter, Candice, a son, Eddie III, and a grandson, Omier.
Article courtesy of Keith Idec & BoxingScene