Former World Championship boxing referee Eddie Cotton, probably best remembered as the third man in the ring for the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson 2002 heavyweight title showdown, died early Friday morning due to COVID- 19 related illness.
“Paterson has lost a legend. Ed Cotton was an accomplished boxing referee, a respected community leader, and a cherished friend.”
Cotton, who was 72, is a former city councilman and community leader in Paterson, and fell seriously ill from the Coronavirus earlier this week.
Cotton began refereeing fights in the 1990s and rose to prominence working title bouts involving the likes of: Sugar Shane Mosley, Fernando Vargas and even, George Foreman’s final fight as a pro against Shannon Briggs in 1997.
Cotton traveled all over the globe refereeing World title fights in South Africa and Germany to name two countries. He is shown above reffing a Tyson Fury fight earlier in the current WBC Heavyweight champ’s career.
However, the most prominent fight he ever worked was the Lewis-Tyson showdown at the Pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee, in July of 2002.
Cotton presided over Lewis’ thunderous 8th round KO, as he counted Tyson out.
New Jersey Boxing Commissioner and former World Championship referee himself, Larry Hazzard, said to ESPN on Friday about Cotton,
“I gave him his license as a professional referee,” said Larry Hazzard, who has been the commissioner of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board since 1985. “I was his mentor. I thought he was one of the greatest referee’s who ever did it.”
Hazzard recommended to the International Boxing Federation that Cotton receive the Lewis-Tyson assignment,
“I specifically selected Eddie to be the referee in that fight because I knew this was the type of fight you needed a referee like Eddie Cotton to officiate — and he did an excellent job,” said Hazzard, who administered that fight.
“He was a very friendly guy, very outgoing, very honest, greeted everyone with a smile and a kind word,” Hazzard continued. “It’s a great loss to humanity.”
Cotton last worked a fight in 2014 and had retired in Paterson, New Jersey. His wife is a current Paterson city councilwoman.
Cotton was also the first Black President of Paterson’s city council and the first Black Director of Public Works in Patterson’s history.
Cotton’s death from the Covid-19 virus is the latest reminder of huge impact that it has had in the New York and New Jersey areas, where as of Friday morning there are over 300,000 known cases have and over 10,000 have died.