Iconic boxing referee Mills Lane dies at age 85

RENO, Nev. — Mills Lane, who rose to fame first as a boxer, then referee, Washoe County district attorney and judge, died Tuesday morning in Reno.

Lane was 85 years old.

His son, Tommy Lane, told the Reno Gazzette Journal that Mills Lane died after being in hospice for the past week.

Mills Lane suffered a stroke 20 years ago.

‘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.’

His family wife Kay and sons Terry and Tommy were with him when he died.

‘You never knew how long he had. We kind of felt like we were preparing for this all along., but there’s no such thing as preparing for this,’ Tommy Lane said.

Tommy Lane said they spent the past few days watching several of Mills Lane’s favorite movies, including ‘The Godfather,’ ‘On The Waterfront,’ ‘Patton’ and ‘Shane.’

Tommy Lane said no funeral service is planned but that the family might hold a memorial at a later date.

‘He hated funerals,’ Tommy Lane said.

Mills lane joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1956 and became a boxer. When stationed in Okinawa, he became the All Far-East welterweight champion.

At Nevada in 1960, he won the NCAA welterweight title and barely missed making the Olympic team. He turned professional while still in college and compiled a record of 10-1.

Mills Lane graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1963 with a degree in business administration. While there, he began his career as a boxing referee. He graduated from the University of Utah’s College of Law in 1970.

Lane began working in the Washoe County District Attorney’s office as a prosecutor in 1971 and spent nearly 17 years there. He was elected district attorney of Washoe County in 1982. He became a judge of Washoe County’s Second Judicial District Court in 1990. In 1998, he stepped down from the bench to begin a courtroom series, ‘Judge Mills Lane,’ which ran for three years.

Mills Lane refereed boxing matches in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. He became famous for his pre-fight phrase, ‘Let’s get it on.’ He was the referee in more than 100 world championship fights. He also refereed in many less important fights out of love for the sport and his respect for fighters.

Lane became a household name in the United States on June 28, 1997, the night he refereed ‘The Bite Fight,’ a rematch between world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield and challenger Mike Tyson at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Tyson twice bit Holyfield’s ears in the early rounds, and Lane disqualified him.

The City of Reno honored him on Dec. 27, 2004, proclaiming it ‘Mills Lane Day.’ In May 2006, a new justice administration building in downtown Reno was named after him. The building houses the Reno Municipal Court and the Washoe County district attorney’s office.

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