Referee Earl Morton dies at 58

Earl Morton, who refereed more than a dozen world title fights during his 24-year career but is best known for serving as the third man in the ring for the second and third fights of the famed Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward trilogy, died Friday after a battle with cancer. He was 58.

Morton, who was born in New York and raised in Newark, N.J., was an amateur boxer, going 38-7 and winning the 1976 New Jersey Golden Gloves title at 119 pounds. After his amateur boxing career, Morton began to referee amateur fights in the late 1970s before beginning to work professional fights in 1989, mainly in the boxing hotbed of Atlantic City, N.J.

Morton was a mainstay of big cards in New Jersey for years and served as the referee for the 1998 fight of the year, the first epic lightweight battle between Gatti and Ivan Robinson.

In 2002, Morton was assigned to the Gatti-Ward junior welterweight rematch and then the 2003 rubber match, which was the fight of the year and ended their famed series.

Among the world title bouts that Morton worked were when Bernard Hopkins retained the middleweight championship against William Joppy in 2003, Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s junior welterweight title victory against Gatti in 2005 and middleweight champion Sergio Martinez's memorable second-round knockout of Paul Williams in 2010.

Morton is survived by his wife, Mingnon, three daughters and a step-daughter.