Joe Cortez installed a boxing ring in his home a few years ago to keep him sharp as a referee.
Little did he realize then how essential the ring would be.
With the sour economy cutting the number of fight cards in Nevada in 2009, Cortez and other local referees don't have as much work. Like the fighters, they risk getting stale.
"Last year we stayed pretty busy," Cortez said. "But I'm in the ring five or six days a week, working with some of the local kids. It's keeping me in shape physically and sharp mentally."
Referee Kenny Bayless said he works out daily and watches as much boxing as he can, in person and on television.
"Even if I'm not working a card, I'll go watch," he said. "You have to stay ready."
Through February, four boxing cards have taken place in Southern Nevada, and one of those was a combined mixed martial arts promotion. By this time last year, six boxing-only cards had taken place.
Some local referees have traveled outside the country to work. Cortez officiated a fight in Germany in January. Bayless is headed to Japan this month.
"It's been tough on our referees and our judges, too," said Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission. "But they're finding ways to stay busy, and we'll have more work for them in the coming weeks and months."
A card took place Friday at The Orleans. Planet Hollywood is having a card March 21, Winky Wright and Paul Williams are scheduled to fight April 11 at Mandalay Bay, and Ricky Hatton will meet Manny Pacquiao on May 2 at the MGM Grand Garden.
• FLOYD RIPS FREDDIE -- Floyd Mayweather Sr., who is training Hatton, is taking verbal swipes at Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer.
During a media conference call to promote the fight, Mayweather came out swinging after being asked if Roach is boxing's second-best trainer after himself.
"I will be honest with you -- that's a bunch of nonsense," Mayweather said. "They've got him in the Hall of Fame. He should be in the Hall of Shame.
"Let's tell the truth like it is. You see Freddie Roach train and you see me train, it's night and day. It doesn't even compare. Doesn't even come close. I mean, let's be real. Tell the truth. Freddie Roach is a joke. That's why his name is 'Freddie the Joke Coach Roach.' "
Roach said he wasn't going to comment.
• NO SECOND FIGHT -- Las Vegas amateur heavyweight Michael Hunter Jr. was supposed to fight twice in Ireland last week during a dual competition between USA Boxing and the Irish National Team. He wound up fighting once.
Hunter won his first bout, stopping Anthony Crampton in the second round. They were supposed to meet again two days later, but Crampton's nose was broken in the first bout, and no replacement opponent could be found.
Hunter is back in Las Vegas training for the Golden Gloves West Regional on March 28 and 29 at the Silver Nugget.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.