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Monday, June 25, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Boxing World's Uncrowned Champ Eddie Cotton Dies

Eddie Cotton, once called ``the uncrowned light-heavyweight champion of the world,'' died yesterday in the University of Washington Medical Center 13 days after undergoing his second liver transplant in three months. He was 64.

A hospital spokesman said the second liver transplant June 11 had functioned well. But physicians were unable to control an infection that developed in Cotton's blood and lungs.

Cotton underwent his first transplant April 22 to correct a chronic liver ailment. When that liver began to lose function in May, a second transplant became necessary.

The former prizefighter was honored at two ``Eddie Cotton Appreciation'' events earlier this year.

Hundreds of friends, including Mayor Norm Rice, turned out to shake Cotton's hand and wish him well with his upcoming surgery. Among the well-wishers were many old-time fighters.

Although he was noted for his knockout punch, Cotton was a gentle man with a droll wit outside the ring.

While undergoing tests to determine if he would be a good candidate for a liver transplant, Cotton was asked by medical personnel why he became a prizefighter.

``They asked why I became a fighter, and I said it was because I was pretty good at it,'' Cotton recalled. ``So I asked Doctor Perkins (a transplant specialist) what gave him the idea he wanted to take people's organs out, and he said it's because he was pretty good at it. I guess that's why we do what we do.''

Cotton was more than just good as a prizefighter.

In 20 years in the ring (1947-1967), he had 83 bouts, winning 34 by knockout and 24 by decision.

Almost certainly the record would have been even better if Cotton had fought all of his bouts in the Pacific Northwest or even in this county.

But, because most fighters in his weight class didn't want to step in the ring with him, Cotton was forced to fight all over the world. Hometown judges in South America and Europe were naturally biased against the outsider.

Cotton, who never weighed more than 168 pounds, often found himself in the ring with men 20 to 30 pounds heavier than himself.

In 1957, when he fought a very overweight Archie Moore in Seattle, Cotton's trainers sewed 11 pounds of lead into his jockstrap for the weigh-in, so nobody would know that Moore outweighed the Seattle fighter by 30 pounds. Moore won by decision.

In 1963, Cotton earned his first shot at the light-heavyweight title, losing to then-champion Harold Johnson in 15 rounds at Sicks' Stadium.

One of Cotton's closest friends, Jimmy Rondeau of Port Townsend, refereed the fight. He voted for Johnson.

``It was close, but I had to vote against Eddie,'' Rondeau recalled a few months ago. ``He had too much style and character ever to complain to me.''

In recent years, Rondeau had served on the State Boxing Commission with Cotton.

Cotton's fight Aug. 15, 1966, against champion Jose Torres in Las Vegas was his bitterest disappointment.

Cotton, then 40 years old and an odds-on-underdog for the nationally televised fight, was expected to be no match for Torres, reputed to be the most vicious body puncher in the world at any weight.

Cotton not only was on his feet at the end of the fight, but most of those in the crowd thought he had won. But Torres was declared the winner.

Born in Muskogee, Okla., Cotton grew up in Arizona and California, where he lettered in four sports in high school. He enlisted in the Navy as a teen-ager and wound up in Bremerton.

In 1946, after three or four amateur fights, Cotton entered the Gold Gloves in Seattle. He weighed 161 pounds and easily could have shed a pound to make the middleweight limit. But a friend told him he should fight as a light-heavyweight, where the limit was 175 pounds.

Cotton won the Golden Gloves title, defeating fighters who outweighed him by a dozen pounds.

Cotton began working at Boeing as a tool-and-die maker early in his prizefighting career. In 1966, the company designated him as its ``Goodwill Ambassador.'' That same year, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer named him ``Man of the Year.''

One of Cotton's closest friends in recent years was Larry Buck, a former prizefighter, who credited Cotton with helping him to develop as a prizefighter.

Buck said that when he didn't have a sparring partner, Cotton would get into the ring with him.

``He was well up in his 40s by then,'' Buck said, ``but it was still a real education.''

Cotton's wife, June Lombard-Cotton, a professional educator, married him after his fighting career was over. She once said she was glad she never saw him fight, because it would be difficult to see someone you love taking punches in a ring.

George Chemeres, Cotton's longtime manager, said, after learning of Cotton's death:

``Eddie Cotton was such a high-class guy, he spoiled me for other fighters I handled over the years.''

Besides his wife, Cotton is survived by a son, Vann, and two daughters, Delphone and Pam Cotton, all of Seattle.

Funeral arrangements will be announced.

-- Times staff reporter Jody Brannon contributed to this report.

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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