By George Mills, courtesy of The Daily Star
Hall of Fame retired referee Joe Cortez claims he ordered Conor McGregor and Paulie Malignaggi to calm down after a rough sparring session threatened to spiral out of control last week.
The legendary official, who has overseen fights involving the likes of Mike Tyson, George Foreman and Oscar De La Hoya, was called in by the McGregor camp to help the Irishman acclimatise to the rules of the sport during his preparations to fight Floyd Mayweather on August 26.
But Cortez, 73, says he was forced to step in after tensions flared during an eight-round knock between former world champ Malignaggi and The Notorious One.
“It was the real thing, I had to stop the action, say, ‘You guys are a little out of control here, you’ve got to stop this’,” he explained to Sirius XM RUSH 93.
“You know, they got a little rough. They were both roughing each other up and I had to stop the action like it was a regular fight.
“They were holding too much – they were trying to punch each other.
“So I had to say, ‘“Time, alright guys, you gotta stop this right now. I want a good clean round. Give me sportsman-like conduct. Understand? I don’t want to take any points from either one of you. Do you understand?’ I looked at them and they said, ‘Okay, alright.’ And I said, ‘Time in.’”
Cortez retired in 2012 following a storied career inside the ring.
Interestingly, he was the man in the middle as Ricky Hatton took on Floyd Mayweather in 2007 – a fight that the Manchester man would lose via KO in the 10th round.
But he was criticised by many in the British media – including David Haye – after being accused of intervening too much in the fight following his decision to deduct a point from Hatton for hitting round the back of the head.
"Ricky did everything, but I thought the referee had a part in this fight," Haye told Sky Box Office after the fight.
"He had become desperate and a desperate man is easy to catch.
"Once he had lost that point, it changed everything. He tried too hard and as a result, he smothered his own work.
"The ref had it in his mind before the fight. He was trying to keep busy, trying to do too much and for me, he ruined the fight. It could've had a much better flow.”
Earlier this week, it was announced that McGregor vs Mayweather would be shown live on Sky Sports Box Office for £19.95.
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