Mills Lane became a figure almost bigger than the sport during his tenure. A pop culture icon who transcended his role as one of the best third men in the ring.
As boxing takes black eyes over referees admitting to cheating, Mills Lane was a shining light and a beacon of hope for fairness.
His actions inside the ropes made him one of the most-loved officials ever to grace the squared circle. And as a former welterweight southpaw who went 10-1 through a six-year career in the 1960s, he commanded the respect of those he took charge of.
Sadly for Lane and his family, he suffered a stroke in 2002 that took him away from the spotlight and into himself.
Mills Lane stroke
As Hall of Fame promoter Lou DiBella commented when paying tribute to Lane, the last twenty years were tough.
“Mills Lane was as good a man as I’ve known in boxing – or anywhere else, for that matter,” said DiBella.
“A bright, passionate, ethical, and principled person, he always gave and commanded respect.
“His stroke was a true tragedy that left this legend a prisoner in his own body. He is free now and, well, in a better place he’s earned.
“Love to his sons, Tommy and Terry, two fine men who do him proud, and his wife, Kaye. He will never be forgotten.”
Top Rank led more tributes to Lane, who died on December 6 at 85.
“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.”
The World Boxing Council added: “The boxing family is reeling with such sad news. The legendary boxing referee Mills Lane has passed away aged eighty-five.
“The Hall of Famer Lane officiated a multitude of major fights in the history of the sport, including more than 100 world championship bouts during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
“Mills, who had suffered a stroke 20 years ago, died after being treated in hospice care over the past week.
“The World Boxing Council and its President, Mauricio Sulaimán, offer his family and friends the world over our deepest condolences.
“Mills is forever a titan of boxing who will never be forgotten.”
Let’s Get it On!
Boxing manager Mark Taffet stated: “So sorry to hear of the passing of the Greatest Referee Of All Time — the legendary Mills Lane.
“I loved his presence at our HBO and HBO PPV boxing events. Mills made it larger than life so many times with his “Let’s Get It On!”
Showtime’s Jim Gray added: “Mills Lane was a great guy, a super referee, and a good friend. On the night of the “Bite Fight,” when Mike Tyson was disqualified for biting Evander Holyfield’s ear, Mills was the man in the middle.
“He did an outstanding job. We will all miss him.”
Lane mixed boxing with the legal system throughout his career. In 1979, Lane became Chief Deputy Sheriff of Investigative Services at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.
He was eventually elected as District Attorney in 1982 and finally as District Judge eight years later.