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

Boxing referee Mills Lane pumps his fist while being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Boxing referee Mills Lane, pumps his fist while being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame during the annual induction ceremony in Canastota, N.Y., on June 9, 2013. Lane, who was the third man in the ring when Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear, died Tuesday. He was 85.
(Heather Ainsworth / Associated Press)
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Mills Lane, the Hall of Fame boxing referee who was the third man in the ring when Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear, died Tuesday. He was 85.

Lane 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 Friday. He died at his home in Reno, Nev., with his wife, Kaye, and two sons.

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

A boxer himself who won an NCAA championship in 1960, Mills 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.

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Lane officiated more than 100 title fights, sharing the ring with greats such as Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes and Lennox Lewis.

But boxing was only his weekend job, Tommy Lane said. Mills Lane was also a judge and district attorney.

Evander Holyfield is checked by referee Mills Lane after he was bit on the right ear by Mike Tyson.
Evander Holyfield is checked by referee Mills Lane after he was bit on the right ear by Mike Tyson during the third round of their WBA heavyweight boxing match on June 28, 1997, in Las Vegas.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

“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, Ga., 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 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.”


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