Legendary Nevada boxing referee Mills Lane passes away


LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Boxing icon Mills Lane, who officiated some of the biggest matches and later found fame with MTV and syndication television, died Tuesday in Reno, Nevada. He was 85 years old.

“The Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame mourns the passing of great referee Mills Lane,” stated a post on the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame’s Twitter page. “A longtime resident of Reno, Mills was a district attorney and later District Court Judge in Washoe County. The courthouse in Reno now bears his name. He refereed many of the biggest fights in boxing…”

Lane officiated hundreds of matches but probably his most well-known one was the night Mike Tyson bit a chunk out of Evander Holyfield’s ear in 1997. Younger fans may also remember him from MTV’s ‘Celebrity Death Match,’ an adult stop-motion claymated series where Mills served as referee.

Lane also hosted a courtroom show, ‘Judge Mills Lane’ which ran for five seasons.

Bob Arum of Top Rank Boxing remembered Lane in an interview with Nexstar affiliate KLAS on Tuesday.

“Mills Lane epitomized everything that was good about the sport of boxing,” Arum said.

When he thinks about Lane, integrity comes to mind. “Pretty universally, in a sport where there’s always a lot of bickering, he was universally respected and admired,” Arum said. He said both sides could always count on a fair shake from Lane when he refereed a fight.

Arum said the last time he saw Lane was before a stroke ended his career as a boxing official in 2002.

“Mills is a credit to the sport and was the best referee ever. No matter what side you were on you always respected his ability and integrity as a ref. We will miss him,” Arum said.

A statement on Top Rank Boxing’s Twitter account said, “The third man in the ring for many of boxing’s legendary nights, Top Rank mourns the passing of Mills Lane. We send our condolences to his family and friends.”

Before Lane refereed boxing matches, he was a boxer and even competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials for the 1960 games. His career as a boxer didn’t last long, he started officiating in the early 1960s.

Gov. Steve Sisolak reacted on Twitter: “Mills Lane was a sports and cultural icon who brought tremendous pride to Nevada. He was a great referee, prosecutor and judge, a loving husband and father and a loyal friend. Kathy and I send our condolences to his wife, Kay, and their sons, Terry and Tommy.”

Former boxer Joey Gilbert, who ran for the Republican nomination for governor this year, said, “What a tremendous loss and sad day to lose such an icon.”

Gilbert promotes fights in Nevada through a Reno company.

“I will always and forever remember him as a tremendous fighter for what’s right and what he loved, a mentor, and friend, who encouraged me to join the military, apply to law school and become a professional fighter. Without Mills in my corner, I’m not sure where I would be today and my heart goes out to his family to Terry and Tommy, and to their mother,” Gilbert said.

“God bless you Mills we love you and many of us are better men and women today because of you; I know I am,” Gilbert said.

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