29
Nov
2020

Let’s Get it On! – There’ll only ever be one boxing referee like Mills Lane

Phil Jay 22/10/2020
Mills Lane Celebrity Deathmatch

MTV / HBO

Mills Lane is sorely missed as a boxing referee. The man who took the Marvin Gaye phrase ‘Let’s Get it On!’ to another level is fondly remembered.

Now 82 years old, Lane was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 2013. The startling fact is he had retired way back in 1998.

His last fight involved an aged Thomas Hearns, but it will forever be the Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield ‘Bite Fight’ that Lane is synonymous with officiating.

With his retirement came a legendary spot on MTV’s ‘Celebrity Deathmatch’ – a highly infectious series of dream match-ups featuring several big Hollywood and musical names from that time.

One hundred percent the most famous third man ever to step inside the ropes, Lane remains a huge part of the modern era. A time when boxing was at its peak in terms of depth of talent.

Taking charge of contests involving such greats as Lennox Lewis, Julio Cesar Chavez, Johnny Tapia, Pernell Whitaker, and Tommy Morrison, Lane took charge of over 250 bouts.

It’s little known that Mills himself was a talented fighter in the 1960s. The Reno man amassed a 10-1 record in the pro ranks following defeat on his debut back in 1961.

Deciding against continuing his career after fighting in the paid ranks from 24 years old to the age of 27, Lane had already sewn the seeds of his long-term spell in the sport.

Beginning his refereeing career in 1963, Lane developed his talents from four fights at the grassroots level to eventually making it to the big time.

Having only taken charge of four bouts between 1963 and 1965, Lane was urged to give his fighting career one last try. A one-off comeback to boxing in 1967 resulted in another win. But Lane had already decided that officiating was his game.

From 1971 onwards, Lane truly ‘Got it on’ and stuck to his guns in a bow tie. It wasn’t long before he began to turn heads.

By 1972, Lane took charge of Muhammad Ali’s win over Bob Foster. In the 1980s, Lane’s career soared into the stratosphere. But it wasn’t until the 1990s when Lane was etched into pop culture.

MILLS LANE IMAGE

His image in ‘Celebrity Deathmatch’ almost became more recognizable than his own.

Four years after he officially retired, and after several TV appearances in a ‘judging’ capacity in the ilk of ‘Judge Judy,’ Lane suffered devastation.

A debilitating stroke left him barely able to speak. Since 2002, Lane has shunned the public spotlight.

Hopefully, through it all, Lane knows just how much he meant to the sport and how we all wish things turned out differently.

In an age where decent referees and judges are very hard to come by, Lane was certainly a shining beacon of light.


Kenny Bayless and Steve Willis are flying the flag as the best refs in the business right now, but how we long for another Mills Lane.

From being a Marine, a Sheriff, a (real) judge, and a chef, everything Lane touched seemed to turn to gold. The man is an absolute legend.

Mills transcended boxing. He is sorely missed in high-profile society, sport, and the mainstream media.

There’s no other way to describe the man other than greatness. How we wish we could hear him say, ‘Let’s Get it On!’ one more time.

Phil Jay is Editor of WBN. An Auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay.