Boxing referee Eddie Cotton dies at the age of 72 after contracting the coronavirus

Retired boxing referee Eddie Cotton, who was the third man in the ring for a career that spanned nearly a quarter century, died Friday at age 72.

Cotton, who was also a professional judge for 11 years, was best known for refereeing the 2002 blockbuster pay-per-view bout between heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson. He succumbed to complications from COVID-19 after being hospitalized for 10 days. 

A native of Paterson, New Jersey, Cotton officiated his first pro bout in February 1992 in Atlantic City. He closed out a memorable career in 2014 by working consecutive title bouts in Germany — Wladimir Klitschko-Alex Leapi and Felix Strum-Sam Soliman. 

Cotton began his career in boxing while serving as a Paterson City Council member. He worked his first amateur bout in July 1980 at Paterson’s Hinchcliff Stadium and had a long history working the New Jersey penal system boxing championships. 

“Paterson has lost a legend,” Mayor Andre Sayegh told the Paterson Times on Friday. “Ed Cotton was an accomplished boxing referee, a respected community leader and a cherished friend.”

The husband of current Paterson councilwoman Ruby Cotton, he will also be remembered as the city’s first African-American president of the City Council and public works director.

“Sad news. Boxing has lost another good man to Covid-19,” promoter Lou DiBella tweeted Friday. “One of the most well known and respected referees in the world, Eddie Cotton was also one of the nicest people in our sport. Gutted for his wife and family. Prayers up. 

Cotton also worked well with heavyweights and referred other memorable bouts including Riddick Bowe-Andrew Golota II, George Foreman-Shannon Briggs and Tyson Fury-Steve Cunningham. 

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