Hall of Fame Boxing Referee Mills Lane Dies at Age 85

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVDecember 6, 2022

Referee Mills Lane (C) steps between World Boxing Association heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield (L) and challenger Mike Tyson (R) during the third round of their fight in the MGM Grand Garden Arena 28 June. Holyfield won by disqualification after Tyson bit his ears.  AFP PHOTO/MIKE NELSON  (Photo credit should read MIKE NELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Photo credit should read MIKE NELSON/AFP via Getty Images

Mills Lane, the most recognizable referee in the history of boxing, died Tuesday at the age of 85.

According to Jim Krajewski of the Reno Gazette Journal (h/t BoxingScene.com), Lane's son Tommy said he died in Reno, Nevada, after spending a week in hospice care.

"He took a significant decline in his overall situation," Tommy Lane said. "It was a quick departure. He was comfortable and he was surrounded by his family."

BoxingScene.com noted that Lane's health was never the same after he suffered a stroke 20 years ago.

After concluding a professional boxing career that saw him post a 10-1 record, Lane became a referee. He began dabbling in officiating during his time at the University of Nevada, Reno, from which he graduated in 1963.

Lane first refereed a world title fight in 1971, and he went on to officiate over 100 world title bouts during his illustrious career, earning him election into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame in 2013.

The most famous fight officiated by Lane came just over one year before his 1998 retirement. On June 28, 1997, Lane presided over the heavyweight championship contest between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson.

Tyson twice bit Holyfield's ear during the fight, leading Lane to disqualify the challenger.

After retiring from refereeing, Lane became a television judge, serving as the central figure on the Judge Mills Lane show for three seasons from 1998 to 2001. During his officiating career, Lane also worked as a prosecutor in the Washoe County, Nevada district attorney's office for more than 16 years before being elected district attorney in 1982 and becoming a judge in Washoe County district court in 1990.

He also lent his voice and likeness to the popular MTV claymation show Celebrity Deathmatch, which originally ran from 1998 to 2002. An animated version of Lane refereed the fights, and used his signature, "Let's get it on," catchphrase.

Lane is survived by his wife, Kay, and his two sons, Terry and Tommy.