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Mills Lane, who refereed Tyson-Holyfield ‘Bite Fight’ and more than 100 other boxing title fights, dies at 85

<i>John Storey/The Chronicle Collection/Getty Images</i><br/>Mills Lane
Getty Images
John Storey/The Chronicle Collection/Getty Images
Mills Lane

By Steve Almasy, CNN

Mills Lane, the third man in the ring for more than 100 championship boxing matches, has died, according to officials in Nevada.

Lane, who loved to scream “Let’s get it on,” after giving instructions to the two fighters before each match, was 85, according to his biography on the International Boxing Hall of Fame website.

He was the no-nonsense referee for fights featuring Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Thomas Hearns and Julio César Chávez.

Lane was the referee for the June 1997 heavyweight title rematch in which Tyson was disqualified for twice biting champion Evander Holyfield’s ears.

“The Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame mourns the passing of great referee Mills Lane,” officials said in announcing Lane’s death. “A longtime resident of Reno, Mills was a district attorney and later District Court Judge in Washoe County.”

Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks tweeted, “Mills 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.”

The facility that houses the Reno Municipal Court and the district attorney’s office is named the Mills B. Lane Justice Center.

Lane was also the star of “Judge Mills Lane” from 1998-2002, appearing in more than 700 episodes, according to the Internet Movie Database.

He told Larry King in 2000 if Tyson hadn’t bit Holyfield, making the fight more than just a sports headline, he wouldn’t have had the show.

“But I was on the bench. I was just a court judge. Refereeing fights is a hobby. Mike took a chunk out of Evander’s ear, and first thing you know people that was a big deal,” he said.

Lane’s career ended when he suffered a stroke in 2002, according to media reports.

“I was saddened to hear of the passing of Mills Lane today. Mills was an extraordinary Nevadan. Donna and I extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends, and loved ones,” said Nevada Gov.-elect Joe Lombardo.

Sports commentator Jim Gray tweeted that Lane was a great guy and a good friend. He said his work in the chaos of the “Bite Fight” was outstanding.

“May God rest his soul. We will all miss him,” he wrote.

According to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Lane took up boxing after he enlisted in the Marines in 1956. He won the NCAA welterweight boxing title in 1960. The website BoxRec.com says he lost his first fight as a professional in 1961, then won his final 10.

He started refereeing in 1963, the website says, and his last bout was in November 1998 when Hearns defeated Jay Snyder.

He was selected for the hall of fame in 2013.

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