Mills Lane, Hall of Fame boxing referee, dies at 85

Mills Lane, Hall of Fame boxing referee, dies at 85

Updated: 1 month, 24 days, 15 hours, 51 minutes, 49 seconds ago
Boxer Evander Holyfield has his right ear checked by referee...

Boxer Evander Holyfield has his right ear checked by referee Mills Lane after he was bit on the ear by Mike Tyson during the third round of their WBA heavyweight boxing match on June 28, 1997, in Las Vegas. Lane, the Hall of Fame boxing referee who worked the memorable bout and more than 100 championship fights, died on Tuesday. He was 85. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File) Referee Lane Mills steps in as boxer Evander Holyfield, right,...

Referee Lane Mills steps in as boxer Evander Holyfield, right, reacts after Mike Tyson bit his ear during the third round of their WBA heavyweight championship fight on June 28, 1997, in Las Vegas. Holyfield won by disqualification after the biting incident. (Photo by Jeff Haynes/AFP via Getty Images) Referee Lane Mills stops the fight in the third round...

Referee Lane Mills stops the fight in the third round as Evander Holyfield, right, holds his ear as Mike Tyson, left, watches during their WBA heavyweight championship fight on June 28, 1997, in Las Vegas. Holyfield won by disqualification after Tyson bit his ear. (Photo by Jeff Haynes/AFP via Getty Images) Referee Mills Lane signals a 2-point deduction toward one of...

Referee Mills Lane signals a 2-point deduction toward one of the judges after Mike Tyson bit the ear of Evander Holyfield during their WBA heavyweight boxing match on June 28, 1997, in Las Vegas. Lane, a Hall of Fame boxing referee, died on Tuesday. He was 85. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File) Hall of Fame boxing referee Mills Lane is shown in...

Hall of Fame boxing referee Mills Lane is shown in a 1990 image. Lane, who worked the memorable Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson “Bite Fight” and more than 100 championship fights, died on Tuesday. He was 85. (Photo by Bob Martin/Allsport) Former boxing referee Mills Lane, pumps his fist while being...

Former boxing referee Mills Lane, pumps his fist while being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame on June 9, 2013, in Canastota, N.Y. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth, File) Referee Mills Lane steps between heavyweight boxers Evander Holyfield, left,...

Referee Mills Lane steps between heavyweight boxers Evander Holyfield, left, and Mike Tyson during the third round of their June 28, 1997 bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Holyfield won by disqualification after Tyson bit his ear. (Photo by Mike Nelson/AFP via Getty Images)

By BRIAN MAHONEY The Associated Press

Mills Lane, the Hall of Fame boxing referee who was the third man in the ring when Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear and more than 100 other championship bouts, died Tuesday. He was 85.

Lane had suffered a stroke in 2002 and his son, Tommy, said his father had taken a significant turn for the worse recently before entering hospice care on Friday. He died at his home in Reno, Nevada, with his wife, Kaye, and two sons in the home.

“There is some relief that he is not trapped in that condition, but we all will miss him,” Lane said.

A boxer himself who won an NCAA championship in 1960, Lane went 10-1 as a pro before eventually making a much bigger mark in the sport as a referee. Respected for being tough but fair, his “Let’s get it on!” command became the final words heard before many memorable fights.

Mills was the referee when Holyfield won the heavyweight title from Buster Douglas, and again when Tyson was disqualified during his second fight with Holyfield after intentionally biting his ear.

Lane officiated more than 100 title fights, sharing the ring with greats such as Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes and Lennox Lewis, and was respected for his fairness and toughness.

Lane always seemed to find himself in big boxing moments. Whether it was Tyson’s comeback DQ victory over Peter McNeeley or Julio Cesar Chavez’s rematch win over Meldrick Taylor, Lane was there as arguably the most recognizable referee in the sport’s storied history.

In 1998, Bernard Hopkins’ fight with Robert Allen ended in a no contest when Hopkins was ejected from the ring while Lane was trying to break one of the many clinches. Even the final fight he worked – Tommy Hearns’ first-round KO of Jay Snyder in 1998 – featured an extremely rare double knockdown.

But boxing was only his weekend job, Tommy Lane said. Mills Lane was also a judge and district attorney, respected for his fairness and toughness – just as he was in the ring.

“In addition to his legendary status in the boxing world, Mills B. Lane was a pillar of justice in Washoe County. He was a no-nonsense dedicated District Attorney who put victims of crime and public safety first,” Washoe County District Attorney, Christopher J. Hicks said in a statement. “My family and I, as well as the entire Washoe County District Attorney’s Office, mourn his loss. May he rest in peace.”

Born Nov. 12, 1937, in Savannah, Georgia, Mills Lane took up boxing while serving in the Marine Corps. After being discharged, he enrolled at the University of Nevada in Reno, where he graduated with a law degree in 1963.

He began refereeing a year later and worked until retiring in 1998. The former judge then starred in his own TV show, “Judge Mills Lane” for the next three years.

Lane added to his place in pop culture lore when MTV’s popular Claymation series, “Celebrity Deathmatch,” debuted in 1998 with Lane as the referee, complete with his trademark catchphrase.

Lane was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2013.

Sons Tommy and Terry Lane followed him into the boxing business, on the promotional side.

“Personally, my dad was my hero and you learn lessons from people,” Tommy Lane said. “It may be not how to act and how to act. He was who I wanted to replicate.”