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Legendary Referee Mills Lane Dies At 85

Posted on 12/06/2022

By: Sean Crose

If you were a fan of boxing in the 1990s, you knew who the man was. Indeed, even if you WEREN’T a fan of boxing in the 1990s, chances are you knew who the man was. Compact, bald, and with a drill sergeant’s persona, referee Mills Lane was tough, fair and beloved. The longtime boxing official passed away today at the age of 85, leaving the fight world with countless memories and a legacy and reputation that will literally be difficult to top.

Perhaps most famous for disqualifying Mike Tyson after “Iron Mike” bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear in 1997, Nevada native Lane had refereed countless matches of note throughout the decades.

Photo: International Boxing Hall Of Fame

Ali-Foster, Holmes-Norton, Holyfield-Douglas, Holmes-Cooney, and Whitaker-De La Hoya were just a few of the matches of note that Lane officiated over during a career that lasted from 1962-1998 and that covered 261 professional bouts. Originally from Georgia, Lane went on to become a Marine. In fact, it was in the Marine Corps that Lane took up boxing himself, turning pro in 1961, and, after being stopped in his debut, going on to win 10 fights in a row.

It was as a referee, however, that Lane earned his greatest success. He eventually became famous for his catch phrase, “Let’s get it on!” which he would yell to the two combatants before a match began. Those four words would also be used by Lane, appearing in claymation form, on the MTV show Celebrity Death Match.

Perhaps surprisingly to some, Lane was also a man of the law. Earning a law degree in 1970, the unlikely future celebrity would go on to be a district attorney, before sitting behind the bench himself as a Washoe County, Nevada judge. Sure enough, at the height of his career in 1998, Lane became the star of his own television program, Judge Mills Lane, which aired until 2001.

According to the Reno Gazette Journal, the famous ref’s family spent the past few days with Lane, watching some of his favorite movies, “including The Godfather, On The Waterfront, Patton, and Shane.” Lane, who the Journal reports had stroke two decades ago, had his family around him when he passed from this world.

“He took a significant decline in his overall situation,” the Journal quotes Lane’s son Tommy Lane as saying. “It was a quick departure. He was comfortable and he was surrounded by his family.”

Rest in Peace.

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