Mills Lane, referee of Holyfield-Tyson ‘bite fight’, dies at age of 85

<span>Photograph: Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images

Mills Lane, the referee who disqualified Mike Tyson for biting Evander Holyfield’s ears in the 1997 world heavyweight title fight, has died at the age of 85.

Lane’s son, Tommy, told the Reno Gazette-Journal that his father, who had been in poor health since suffering a stroke 20 years ago, died peacefully at a hospice in the Nevada city on Tuesday.

Related: From the Vault: Mike Tyson bites Evander Holyfield in both ears

“He took a significant decline in his overall situation,” Tommy Lane told the Gazette-Journal. “It was a quick departure. He was comfortable and he was surrounded by his family.”

Lane served in the US Marines for three years before attending college. He boxed in the Marines and at college where he turned professional, winning his first 10 fights before retiring with a 10-1 record. He then turned to law and had a successful career as a prosecutor, and later found fame as a TV courtroom judge. He eventually became a boxing referee and coined his memorable catchphrase, “Let’s get it on”.

Lane officiated in a number of other controversial heavyweight fights, including the second meeting between Holyfield and Riddick Bowe in 1993, which was interrupted by a paraglider landing in the ring.

He threw out a distressed Oliver McCall from his 1997 rematch with Lennox Lewis, and also disqualified Henry Akinwande for excessive holding against Lewis four months later.

“[Lane] was one of the most unique people I’ve ever met,” Marc Ratner, the former executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, told Yahoo Sports. “He was a law-and-order guy and very firm, but he was a wonderful guy and I loved speaking with him and spending time with him. He was a no-nonsense referee and even though he was a slight man, when he gave commands and told the fighters to break, they broke because they had so much respect for him.”

Lane was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2013. He is survived by his wife Kaye and sons Terry and Tommy.