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Respected referee Eddie Cotton passes away

Eddie Cotton
Matt Christie pays tribute to Eddie Cotton, Ron Ross, Dennis Flynn, Gary Chippendale, Billy Walker and Billy Graydon

RESPECTED referee Eddie Cotton succumbed to complications from COVID-19 on Friday (April 17) after being hospitalised for 10 days. The Paterson, New Jersey native – best known for refereeing Lennox Lewis’ knockout of Mike Tyson in 2002 – was 72 years old.

Cotton’s life as a boxing official began in the summer of 1980 when he worked his first amateur bout at Paterson’s Hinchcliff Stadium. For the next 12 years, under the auspices of the USA-ABF, he worked throughout the state of New Jersey while refereeing amateur bouts at all levels. He was one of four officials selected to work in the penal system boxing championships before securing his position as a professional boxing referee in 1992.

Cotton – who was licensed in several states in the USA and refereed all over the world – soon became a regular fixture in world title fights. Fans may also remember him for disqualifying Andrew Golota against Riddick Bowe in their 1996 rematch, or watching over the action as Shannon Briggs controversially outpointed George Foreman the following year.

Cotton retired from refereeing in 2014 to become a board member of the IBF. At the peak of his powers he was recognised as one of the leading referees in the world and officiated bouts including Shane Mosley, Gennady Golovkin, Wladimir Klitschko, Bernard Hopkins and Kelly Pavlik. Travelling British fans will recall Cotton overseeing Darren Barker’s IBF title-winning victory over Daniel Geale, Tyson Fury’s stoppage of Steve Cunningham and Matthew Macklin’s losses to Golovkin and Sergio Martinez and his victory over Lamar Russ.

“We will always respect and revere Eddie as ring official who was totally honest in his performances,” said the WBC in a statement. “Eddie will be remembered as an exemplary person, a great friend and he’ll greatly missed.”

Ring announcer Michael Buffer said: “Eddie was a great referee. Always in command and control. I used to always introduce him as ‘Big’ Eddie Cotton… I’m heartbroken.”

Married to Ruby and the father of two (Candice and Edward III), Cotton was well-liked and used to reference the likes of Richard Steele and Larry Hazzard as huge influences in his career.

Boxing News were also deeply saddened to hear about the death of esteemed writer, and regular BN contributor, Ron Ross in March. The former amateur boxer, manager and promoter was, like Cotton, ultimately taken down by the coronavirus pandemic that has crippled the world.

Born into boxing, Ross fell in love with the sport but also held close his dreams of becoming a writer. The Flatbush area of Brooklyn, a predominantly Jewish area with a sprinkling of Irish where Ross spent his formative years, would be the inspiration for much of his writing later in life.

As well as providing content for pretty much every reputable boxing news outlet in the world, Ross – a prolific wordsmith who earned a BA in English at Brooklyn College and a Masters at New York University – authored several books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Bummy Davis vs Murder Inc (2003) and Nine… Ten… and Out! The Two Worlds of Emile Griffith (2008) were two works that were greatly admired and, feeding his natural desire for storytelling, he produced several fiction books including novels for children.

Ross also ran his own successful real estate business for many years. A member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, Ross was inducted into Long Island Jewish Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame five years later.

In Britain, former lightweight Dennis Flynn was among the first former boxers to fall to coronavirus. The southpaw, from Edmonton, was a decent boxer at his best and died earlier this month, aged 73.

His professional record was 9-3-1 (1) and he was a regular fixture at the Shoreditch Town Hall. He had his final bout in 1973 at the Royal Albert Hall where he was stopped by Jimmy Revie on the undercard of Joe Bugner’s European heavyweight title victory over Juergen Blin.

Boxing News also received news of three further passings in the last week, though it is not known if the deaths of Gary Chippendale, Billy Graydon and (former bantamweight) Billy Walker were the results of coronavirus.

Gary Chippendale, 80 and battling long-term health problems, was among them. A talented and hard-hitting middleweight who never quite fulfilled his potential, Chippendale had his last fight in 1972, being stopped by Pat McCann inside Bethnal Green’s York Hall to leave his record at 18-15 (16).

Chippendale – a Mancunian who fought out of Bristol – worked closely with Bristol promoter, Len Munden. He fought on both Len’s first show in 1965 (knocking out Tommy Baldwin at Colston Hall) and his last, when he stopped Mervill Francis at Bristol’s Broadway Cinema seven years later. For a while, Chippendale was a bright prospect and ranked among the best middleweights in Britain.

Peter Richards from Cornwall, and another fighter who made a name for himself in Bristol, said of sparring Chippendale: “He wasn’t too fussy of where he would hit you and he could really punch. He hit me low once and when I had recovered we noticed he had knocked my protector cup out of shape. We had to whack it on the ring post to turn it right.”

Stoke Newington’s Billy Graydon, who fought from featherweight to lightweight between and 1956 to 1959 has passed away aged 86. A capable southpaw who never fought beyond six-round level, his 6-7 (1) record is decorated by taking debutant Howard Winstone the full course at Wembley Stadium. Topping that bill was Joe Erskine’s 10-round points victory over future world light-heavyweight champion, Willie Pastrano, in a heavyweight bout. The loss to young Winstone, who of course went on to cement his name in British boxing history, was Graydon’s last bout.

Like Graydon, 82-year-old Billy Walker was also in a care home suffering from dementia at the time of his death. Walker – from Kings Cross in London – announced his retirement in 1961 after losing to future British super-featherweight title challenger, Brian Cartwright at Digbeth Civic Hall in Birmingham. Another notable name on Walker’s record was Edinburgh’s Jackie Brown, who went on to win the British and Commonwealth flyweight titles after knocking out Walker in 1960.

Everyone at Boxing News would like to express their deepest sympathies to all the families and friends of those affected by the pandemic.

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