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Outside the Lines:
Good Luck, Mr. Cotton


Here's the transcript from Show 115 of weekly Outside The Lines - Good Luck, Mr. Cotton

SUN., JUNE 9, 2002
Host: Trey Wingo
Topics: A chat with Tyson-Lewis referee Eddie Cotton, and we ask the question: Are horses athletes?

ANNOUNCER- June 9, 2002.

TREY WINGO, GUEST HOST- Early in his career, Mike Tyson wreaked havoc with his fists.

PLAY BY PLAY ANNOUNCER- Oh, wow, that was quick.

WINGO- Recently, Tyson has simply wreaked havoc.

PLAY BY PLAY ANOUNCER- Oh, he hits him after the bell, and (Unintelligible) goes down, and here we go again.

WINGO- Last night in Memphis, referee Eddie Cotton was the man commissioned to maintain order in the ring.

EDDIE COTTON, REFEREE FOR TYSON/LEWIS FIGHT- I don't want any controversy to be in this fight whatsoever.

WINGO- We'll see how Cotton prepared for the biggest fight of his life, and we'll hear from the third man in the ring with Lewis and Tyson.

The fight in Memphis, one of the cavalcade of marquee sports events this weekend. The brightest stars competing on the biggest stages. And, yesterday afternoon, most eyes were on Belmont Park, to see if War Emblem could capture the Triple Crown. But War Emblem is a horse, of course.

REPORTER- Do you think horses are athletes?

KOBE BRYANT, LOS ANGELES LAKERS- Do I think horses are athletes? I would say so, yeah.

FRANK THOMAS, CHICAGO WHITE SOX- No, I think they should be considered just great horses.

WINGO- Today, on Outside The Lines, are racehorses athletes, or just athletic? And a look at Lewis-Tyson through the eyes of the Lord of the Ring.

WINGO- Hi, and welcome once again to Outside The Lines, I'm Trey Wingo sitting in for Bob Ley. We'll debate the athletic status of racehorses in a few minutes, but first we are walking in Memphis.

Last night, in Memphis, Tennessee, Lennox Lewis took out Mike Tyson with an eighth round knockout. Officially counting Tyson out was referee Eddie Cotton. Now, Eddie Cotton stands 6-foot-5 tall and weighs 250 pounds. Eddie Cotton is by any standard a heavyweight. His inclusion at the brawl in Tennessee had as much to do with him spending eight years refereeing prison fights in New Jersey as it did overseeing 19 world title fights in his 10-year career as a pro. Eddie Cotton is no stranger to controversy. He was the ref who disqualified Andrew Golota for low blows against Riddick Bowe.

Since Thursday morning, our cameras followed Cotton's every move in the countdown to the largest stage in boxing -- A heavyweight title fight with Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis. Outside The Lines takes you inside the ropes, with the Lord of the Ring.

COTTON- My name is Eddie Cotton. I'm 6-foot-5 and I weigh 250 pounds. I'm the boss.

The reason I was picked for the Tyson-Lewis fight, I believe, is that they wanted a bigger referee to handle it.

I'm headed over to get my credentials, so I won't have any problem getting into the fight tomorrow. Actually, Saturday.

I got to get on that trolley before we leave here.

I'm having control. That's right. No, I don't see any problems.

WOMAN TAKING PICTURE- Now, give me a great smile. Way to go. Thank you.

COTTON- It's official now.

LENNOX LEWIS, BOXER- I'm no punk in the ring, so hopefully I'll respond the same way. You know, hopefully, there will be a ref in there that will keep everything in hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE- Don't be afraid of warning and warning, and if you do it again, you will have one point deducted.

COTTON- Well, you know, I'm hoping that they both will adhere to the rules. In Mike Tyson's case in particular, this time I feel very strongly that he knows that this is probably his last opportunity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE- Safety is above everything else. We don't want any more misconducts in boxing, you know, you have the experience.

COTTON- I've done 19 world title bouts, I've done 50 championship bouts, but this ranks number one. This will be a career fight for any official.

BRIAN KENNY, ESPN - You've lost a little weight.

COTTON- Most of my experiences with the media have been positive. I've tried to respond directly and sincerely to most questions that are answered.

REPORTER- You are under pressure to a certain extent. Mike Tyson does have a history of violent behavior in the ring.

COTTON- Well, I've had experience with other fighters -- remember I had Riddick Bowe-Andrew Golota with low blows.

In the ring, things are happening. You know -- I've heard guys grunting and squealing -- a guy asked for his mama, one time. He got hit in the stomach. I heard air, like, oozing out of his ears, even. He was, you know, just the punishment some of the guys have taken. And, you know, sometimes when they go down, you look at their eyes, they're, you know, they don't know anything. It's a violent world out there. It's a violent world.

When I'm not refereeing, I like to relax by playing golf. My chances of playing in the Senior Tour are probably slim, but that probably would be something that I would like to work on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE- So, it's the calm before the storm?


A couple of hours before the fight, I'm thinking -- you've prepared yourself, you know, you've done many fights. Your experiences are great, have been great. And you're looking at somebody's going to do above and beyond what they have to do to win the fight, and may the best man win.

WINGO- Well, referee Eddie Cotton, who just hours ago was the third man in the ring with Tyson-Lewis, joins us now live from the site of the fight in Memphis.

Eddie, first of all, I don't know anybody that can relax playing golf. We'll get to that a little bit later. But, first of all, obviously, you were picked for this fight because of your size. You clearly had some issues doing prison fights in New Jersey. You're ready to expect anything. What were you expecting going into that ring? Were you expecting it to be another disaster?

COTTON- No, I was expecting a good, clean fight. I've been saying it all along, ever since I first received the assignment. I knew once that I spoke to Mike in his dressing room, and also to Lennox, that they would basically abide by the rules.

WINGO- Well, we've got some shots here of the unusual set-up before that fight. The phalanx of security people back to back, one facing Tyson's side, one facing Lewis' side. Never seen anything like that in a fight before. You had to go into the dressing rooms, Eddie, to give them their pre-fight instructions. Clearly, everyone was if not expecting the worst, preparing for the possibility of the worst.

COTTON- I think that they just hyped that up a little bit. I guess it added to the whole drama of the event, and I knew all along that Mike was going to be all right. And if you saw the fight, you see that I had to warn Lennox three times, and I had to deduct a point for his actions. You know, trying to swing when Mike was down and sort of pushing him down. So, you know. Mike was a good guy.

WINGO- Well, that was my next question. Clearly as the fight started going, you did have more problems with Lennox, or you addressed more problems with Lennox Lewis. Did you feel that Lennox, in the middle of that fight, was actually doing things outside the rules more than Mike?

COTTON- Oh, yes. There is no question about it. And at the end of the fight, he apologized to me, he said -- "I'm sorry, ref, but I tried to do the best I could."

WINGO- Well, he certainly did. Obviously, he won with an eighth round technical knockout. Or a knockout, I should say. There were a couple of instances there where it looked like Tyson may have gone down earlier. The first knock down in that eighth round; it looked like he never touched -- his knee actually never touched the canvas. Did you think that his knee hit the canvas in that situation?

COTTON- Yes, I did. That's why I ruled it a knockdown. And if you remember, Lennox actually threw another punch -- I'm glad that it missed, then. That's why I sent him to the neutral corner and I picked the count up from the timekeeper.

WINGO- Outside of the possibility of fouling and the possibility of foul play by Tyson and Lewis, which we did see and as you alluded to you did deduct a point, how much did your size come into play in the first round, especially, and in the second round? There were many times where you had to get in there and push these two guys apart. And they wanted no part of being pushed apart.

COTTON- Well, they were two big men, you know, Lennox is really a lot larger than he looks. He's got a big burly chest. And, you know, I guess that was part of his game plan. And when I went into the fight, I was thinking -- I said that if Mike allows Lennox to tie him up, then I think that Mike is going be in for a long night. And, you know, it proved out that way.

WINGO- When all is said and done, and they talk about this fight three years from now, five years from now, the referee's name, Eddie Cotton, won't be mentioned much. Is that the way you wanted it to be when you went into this fight? Let the combatants fight it out and let me just take care of what I have to do?

COTTON- Right. Because good referees aren't supposed to be involved in the action. People came to see two great fighters do what they do, and as long as I'm not involved in any controversy or anything and everything is clear, I'm very happy.

WINGO- Eddie Cotton, referee for the Tyson-Lewis fight last night in Memphis. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

COTTON- Thank you.

WINGO- Now, the Tyson-Lewis fight was televised in 130 countries, covered by more than 1,300 credentialed media. Among them, Ralph Wiley. He's provided coverage for "ESPN the Magazine," and also a writer for Ralph has attended more than 50 title fights since his first one in '78. He's the author of "Serenity - A Boxing Memoir," and Ralph joins us now from Memphis, his hometown.

And, Ralph, first of all, this was a huge event for the city of Memphis. Did it come off the way Memphis wanted it to?

RALPH WILEY, AUTHOR, "SERENITY - A BOXING MEMOIR"- Well, I think so, Trey. Especially when you consider that the two things that Memphis is probably known best for -- three things -- Elvis, who died,you know, sort of a sick puppy death in Vegas, the assassination of Martin Luther King, and barbecue. And, barbecue only goes so far. So, I think they were very proud of the way this promotion came off.

WINGO- Well, speaking of barbecue, you could make a case fairly easily that Lennox Lewis barbecued Mike Tyson last night. It was an unbelievable display -- from one hand -- of a boxer who's been busy and a boxer who hasn't.

WILEY- Well, you know, it was oddly redemptive for three factions -- For the city of Memphis, certainly for Lennox Lewis, who proved how really highly skillful he was -- I mean, it was clear that there was no way after the first round or two -- I thought this fight might be like Hagler and Hearns, but it was more like Hearns and Duran. I mean, he had no chance -- you could see it early on. And, then, also in an odd way, it was redemptive temporarily, maybe, for Mike Tyson. Because I know there's some fighters -- Sonny Liston quit on his stool. Roberto Duran didn't want to take a whipping from Sugar Ray Leonard, but Mike Tyson went on his shield last night.

WINGO- Well, he certainly did, but it was interesting after the fight, Ralph. Mike Tyson was almost overly apologetic. Even went so far as to kiss Lennox Lewis' mother in the ring. Was this a classic case of once somebody stands up to a bully and he gets hit in the face, suddenly he's not a bully anymore?

WILEY- I think so, Trey. Well, maybe not a bully, but I think that there are two, three, or four sides to Mike Tyson. And each of them seems to be over-exaggerated. I mean, I don't think he is undecent, indecent. As Eddie pointed out, I think really he was the cleaner fighter last night. I'm not saying that Lennox did anything overly bad, but he was using his body, and he did use his shoulders to aid the knockdowns, but he was clearly better -- clearly, clearly there was no way Tyson could beat him, not last night.

WINGO- And after the fight, Ralph, Mike Tyson came out and essentially said, "Yeah, everything I did starting with that press conference in January was to sell tickets. I did a good job." Is he a lot smarter now than we've been giving him credit for?

WILEY- Well, I think sometimes he is. Sometimes I think he gets caught up in his own hype, perhaps. And I don't even think this is over, either. I don't think boxing is like that. I think, eventually, there probably will be a rematch.

WINGO- Well, that was part of the deal when they signed it, so it made sort of that begging in the ring afterward, please give me a rematch, less dramatic.

Here's the question, though. Considering that Tyson was so thoroughly beaten, so thoroughly outclassed, if there is a rematch, who are they selling that to?

WILEY- Well, probably fans of Mike Tyson. He'd have to fight in one, two, three fights in between to get that. But, think of this -- If a guy -- he was thoroughly beaten, but if a guy is really punished and knocked down, he's not in there asking for any rematches. And Mike seems kind of eager. He's always going to have a puncher's chance. Mike Tyson will be 45 years old and he'll have a puncher's chance. He's much like George Foreman -- you know, he's a small, small heavyweight in stature -- he weighs 234, but his reach is short, he's short -- and against a fighter like Lennox Lewis, it's just -- that spells disaster.

WINGO- Ralph, before we let you go, whose legacy was affected more by this fight? Tyson's in a negative way, or Lennox's in a positive way?

WILEY- Well, actually, I think -- you know the answer's surprising. I don't think that this is the foil that Lennox Lewis needs to be considered a great heavyweight. I think he's a highly skillful heavyweight. I'd put him in the range of, say, a Larry Holmes. But he hasn't had that foil, that great foil that you think this guy's in trouble against him. And it maybe the big Ukrainian -- might be that guy for Lennox Lewis.

Meanwhile, I think Mike Tyson proved that, look, I'm not a total sociopath. You know, this is what I do. I do this with honor. And I think this was that, you know, that part of boxing that sometimes is noble. There's that ignoble part of boxing and a noble part, and the way you conduct yourself in that ring -- there's no lying in boxing, not in the ring, Trey.

WINGO- Well, and we certainly may see it again between Tyson and Lewis. Ralph, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

WILEY- Thank you.

WINGO- Stay with us. Up next on Outside The Lines, War Emblem's run for a Triple Crown renewed interest in the sport of horse racing and brought to the forefront a very interesting question -- Are racehorses simply athletic, or just like Mike, is War Emblem an athlete?

JOCKEY- When he wins, he doesn't get nothing. You know. He doesn't get no money. The owner's the only guy who gets the money. The jockey gets the credit. And the poor horse, only thing he got is beat on, you know.

WINGO- When ESPN listed the top 50 athletes of the past century, arguably the best forward ever, Julius Irving, was number 43. Baseball's most prolific power switch-hitter Mickey Mantle was 37. Secretariat, a 3-year-old racehorse, was voted ahead of them both as the century's 35th greatest athlete. Now, a horse is a horse, of course, of course, and no one can talk to a horse, of course. So, Steve Cyphers talked to a lot of people with just one simple question -- Are horses athletes, or just athletic?


MIKE SWEENEY, ROYALS FIRST BASEMAN- How many home runs is he gonna hit to get the Triple Crown?

KENNY LOFTON, CHICAGO WHITE SOX- If we can look in the dictionary and find out the word athlete, then you can have a better answer to that question.

STEVE CYPHERS, ESPN CORRESPONDENT- Fair enough, Kenny Lofton. Lets look in the American Heritage Dictionary. "Athlete- a person possessing the natural or acquired traits, such as strength, agility, and endurance, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera." Well, there it was. Said it right there. A person. Discussion over. Or not.

LAURA HILLENBRAND, AUTHOR- It would be better to say an individual and not a person. I think probably the person who wrote the definition just wasn't thinking of racehorses, and had they known what everybody on the racetrack knows, they would have said "individual" and not "person."

CYPHERS- Laura Hillenbrand wrote the number one bestseller, "Seabiscuit."

HILLENBRAND- I think absolutely you can consider them athletes. They have strength, they have speed, and they have endurance.

CYPHERS- More than 1,000 pounds of muscle and hide. Training daily. Flying at 40 miles an hour.

JOE RANDA, ROYALS 3RD BASEMAN- They sprint and they have condition to them and they run. So I guess they could be considered an athlete.

FRANK THOMAS, CHICAGO WHITE SOX- I think they should be considered just great horses.

CYPHERS- Just great horses? What about desire? What about that all-important frame of mind?

D. WAYNE LUKAS, TRAINED 4 KENTUCKY DERBY WINNERS- The mental is the most important thing.

HILLENBRAND- They have tenacity. They want very badly to win. The one that has won is swaggering, he's strutting, he's pricking his ears, and he looks full of himself. The ones that have lost often look very dejected. They are holding their heads down.

LUKAS- The competitive nature of the thoroughbred horse -- it's bred right in him to be competitive. It doesn't take very long for them to learn to run to their competition.

CYPHERS- Silver Charm was the 3-year-old male of the year in 1997. But like many humans, according to his coach, Bob Baffert, he wasn't big on practice.

BOB BAFFERT, TRAINER OF SILVER CHARM & WAR EMBLEM- Silver Charm was sort of a lazy horse. He just did enough to get by. But he loved the competition factor. He loved -- he almost, like, he's one of these horses that probably would have been talking smack alongside a horse.

CYPHERS- That would make Silver Charm like many athletes. And this year's star, War Emblem, has a reputation for biting his pony horse. But that doesn't make him Mike Tyson. No, he's more like...

PLAY BY PLAY ANNOUNCER- Moss has it, and he's flying, thirty, twenty-five, and he is...gone! Home run for Randy Moss!

BAFFERT- Yeah, Randy Moss. He's just, you know, he's got this tremendous acceleration, he can jump higher than anybody and that's what this horse is -- just a great athlete.

KOBE BRYANT, BASKETBALL PLAYER- Do I think horses are athletes? I would say so, yeah. Because they're running around a track. I don't know about the guy's riding at their back, but the horses are fine.

CYPHERS- Of course, a horse wouldn't say he has the speed of Marshall Faulk. But don't humans, such as Andre Rison, when comparing himself to Tim Brown, ascribe equine traits to themselves to magnify their athletic prowess?

ANDRE RISON, NFL WIDE RECEIVER- He's a little bit bigger than I am. I'm a little bit quicker. He's a little bit more like a Spartan. I'm more like a racehorse.

LUKAS- That used to be Al McGuire's great line. Of course, Al was a big racetrack fan, too, but as a basketball coach, he always used to kid them and say, yeah, you know, boy, this one's a thoroughbred.

CYPHERS- So, is an athlete a thoroughbred? Oh, no. Where's that American Heritage?

WINGO- All right, Steve, thanks. Let's throw the door wide open. Joining us to discuss the matter from Belmont Park is Pat Forde, columnist from the "Louisville Courier-Journal," who firmly believes that racehorses are athletes, and joining us from Milwaukee is Bob Wolfley, columnist from the "Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel," who firmly believes there is no way a horse is an athlete. Pat, we will start with you. Go ahead and state your case. Why are horses athletes?

PAT FORDE, LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL- Well, I'd say not only are they athletes, Trey, they're the best kind of athletes. You don't hear about them carrying concealed weapons, they don't hold out, they don't write tell-all books -- I mean, they're wonderful, and they are supreme competitors on the track.

WINGO- Well, Bob, I guess you want a chance to rebut that?

BOB WOLFLEY, MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL- Well, I'd say --yeah, they don't have unions, either. They don't have agents, for the most part; they don't stay in four-star hotels. So, in that way, they aren't like athletes, but the big thing is that horses might have the characteristics of human beings and we might want to ascribe those to -- courage and speed and all of that to a horse, but they're not -- they are not athletes.

FORDE- I'd say that, actually, you know, they train actually to a great degree -- I mean, I talked with Bill Nack who wrote the book about Secretariat. Was talking with him about this last night, and he said that, you know, it's not like box turtles that run around. These horses get out there and train. When Secretariat didn't win, he was not in shape. When he was at the peak of his game, he was perhaps the greatest athlete of the 20th century. I think 35 was too low.

WOLFLEY- I don't deny that they train and they practice, but what about --where do you draw the line, Pat? I mean, what about John Henry, a trotter, there are greyhound tracks here in the state of Wisconsin, there are great greyhounds, I presume out there somewhere -- the Secretariat of greyhounds. Why aren't they athletes? I've seen the X-Games and those dogs that jump for those Frisbees; I'm sure they train, too.

FORDE- Certainly, they do. You know, greyhounds chase the mechanical rabbit. Frisbee dogs need a frisbee to chase. And these horses want to run, and want to run against each other. I think the best example of War Emblem's competitiveness came in the Preakness, when Magic Weisner was charging up and almost passed him. They went under the wire. The race was over, but War Emblem still did not let Magic Weisner pass him, because he -- that's just his nature. He is the lead herd animal in his herd. He does not want animals ahead of him, and he was not going to let it pass him; it didn't matter to him whether the race was over. So I think there's definitely competitiveness there as well.

WINGO- Hey, guys, we've got about 30 seconds left. I want to ask you both -- If we concede for the sake of this argument that horses are athletes, where do you draw the line, Pat, where do you draw the line, Bob?

WOLFLEY- Well, I mean, I don't think you can draw the line. If you say they are athletes, there is no line to draw. You've already crossed over the line. So, box turtles, and trotters, and dogs, and leaping frogs --they all could fit in that category.

WINGO- Pat, quickly, last word out of you?

FORDE- I'll take thoroughbreds; I'll throw out the box turtles and the leaping frogs, although it's a nice thought.

WINGO- Fair enough to both of you, and Bob, the executives here thank you for mentioning the dog and the great outdoor games. We appreciate it. We'll save this debate for later.

Stay with us, though, on Outside The Lines. It turns out Mike Tyson's pre-fight outburst wasn't indicative of his performance last night. Tyson's behavior was the subject of last week's show, and we'll see what you thought when we come back to check your letters. Stay with us.

WINGO- Last week's Outside The Lines examined the psyche of Mike Tyson. Safe to say there were many varied opinions out there on that. Here now is just a sample of some of the letters we have received.

From Commerce, Texas- "The show covered more of what Tyson does outside the ring rather than in it. Let's not forget that some time ago, this man was the heavyweight boxing champion, but depression and obviously other mental problems, has caused everyone to overlook that."

And, from Nashville, Tennessee- "Here's my take on the public's curiosity on Tyson and why they keep coming back for more -- it isn't because we think he'll do something stupid and we want a front row seat. It isn't because we love shelling out 60 bucks to waste 38 seconds of our lives. It's because we all have hope -- we have hope that we'll see the Tyson of the late '80s and early '90s that dominated the sport of boxing like no other."

To watch last week's show, or any of our more than 100 Sunday morning Outside The Lines programs, it's simple-log on -- the key word is "Outside The Lines weekly" at And, as always, we look forward to your comments and suggestions. Our e-mail address-

WINGO- And that's going to do it for this edition of Outside The Lines. Boy Ley will be back next week. I'm Trey Wingo, thanks for watching our program.

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