What Ever Happened To Mills Lane?

By Norman Marcus on June 10, 2017
What Ever Happened To Mills Lane?
Mills Lane had a fantastic run as a referee. But the “Bite Fight” made him a boxing icon.

He wound up the All-Far East welterweight champion. Later, while in college he became a NCAA boxing champion. He then turned pro…

Judge Mills Lane really became famous in the fight world the night he refereed the bizarre “Bite Fight.” It was the rematch between Mike Tyson and heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield. Mills was brought in as a last minute replacement for referee Mitch Halpern. The Tyson camp had rejected Halpern who had called the first Tyson-Holyfield bout and had allowed some questionable head butts by Holyfield to go un-penalized. So Lane wound up in the ring that night, with his traditional famous shout out to the fighters, “Let’s get it on!”

The fight took place on June 28, 1997 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. By this time Iron Mike was far from the fighter he once was. He was no longer the twenty-year-old who made short work of all the top contenders in the heavyweight division. He still had ring rust from the three years he was away from boxing because of a rape conviction.

Tyson had a great left hook and quick, heavy hands. He fought out of the peek-a-boo style taught to him by legendary trainer and mentor Cus D’Amato. It was the same style that Cus drilled into Floyd Patterson for his championship run in the 1960s. It depended on side-to-side head movements, bobbing, weaving, and blindsiding the opponent.

Holyfield’s style was different. He was a great counterpuncher. However, he was often accused of deliberate head butting (as in the first fight with Tyson) but often got away with it. He was a very religious man but had an uncontrollable taste for beautiful women. (Bad for the legs!)

Round 1 showed that Holyfield would be the better fighter that night. His upper body strength allowed him to easily push Mike around the ring at will. As usual Mills Lane kept a close watch on both these fighters. In round 3, desperation kicked in and Tyson twice took a bite out of Holyfield’s ears, causing the blood to pour down the champion’s neck. After that first bite, Lane took two points away from Tyson. When Holyfield was bitten again in the same third round, Lane stopped the fight and gave the win to the champion. Confusion and tempers ran wild in the ring after the stoppage. Tyson promoter Don King was not happy. He was making a fortune off of Tyson. The two fighters and referee Mills Lane were sprayed with blood from the mangled ear. (Lane later sold his bloody shirt to a collector for big money.) A noticeable piece of Holyfield’s ear was clearly chewed off but retrieved from the canvas after the fight. It was never reattached! To this day a part of Evander’s ear bares the scalloped shape of Tyson’s front teeth!

Mills Lane had a fantastic run as a referee. He officiated at many famous Championship fights during the 70s, 80s and 90s. But the “Bite Fight” made him a boxing icon. Here are some brief stats, on other bouts Mills worked over the years. All these names just jump out at you!

1972 Muhammad Ali/Bob Foster NABF Heavyweight Title, 1978 Ken Norton/Larry Holmes WBC Heavyweight Title, 1982 Larry Holmes/Gerry Cooney WBC Heavyweight Title, 1985 Livingston Bramble/Ray Mancini WBA Lightweight Title, 1986 Mike Tyson/Trevor Berbick WBC Heavyweight Title, 1987 Marvin Hagler/John Mugabi WBC WBA IBF Middleweight Title, 1989 Hector Camacho/Ray Mancini WBO Light Welterweight Title, 1992 Terry Norris/Meldrick Taylor WBC Super Welterweight Title, 1996 Michael Moorer/Frans Botha IBF Heavyweight Title, 1996 Tommy Morrison/Lennox Lewis IBC Heavyweight Title, 1997 Pernell Whitaker/Oscar De La Hoya WBC Welterweight Title, 1997 Lennox Lewis/Oliver McCall (second meeting) WBC Heavyweight Title, 1998 Bernard Hopkins/Robert Allen IBF Middleweight Title and 1998 Thomas Hearns/Jay Snyder (final bout for Mills’ career).

During these years Lane was also a real sitting judge, who sat on the bench in Washoe County, Nevada District Court. He had had a syndicated reality court show called “Judge Mills Lane.” Another program called “Celebrity Death Match,” did well in the ratings.

Judge Lane also has written several books on the architecture of the Old South.

Where does such an amazing character like Mills Lane come from? Well he was born into a well-to-do family in the state of Georgia. His grandfather and father started and ran several Banks in the state. He enlisted in the U.S. Marines in 1956 where he learned to box as a welterweight. He wound up the All-Far East welterweight champion. Later, while in college he became a NCAA boxing champion. He then turned pro and wound up with a record of 10-1. He held a business degree from the University of Nevada and a law degree from the University of Utah. With his law background, he got a job as a deputy sheriff in Washoe County in 1979. In 1982 he became the District Attorney there and in 1990 became a sitting Judge in the District Court.

Mills retired as a referee in 1998. In 2002 he suffered a debilitating stroke. The damage made it difficult for him to move or speak. He had been home alone and unable to reach the phone for help. In that situation, minutes make all the difference. Such damage to the brain cannot be reversed.

In 2006 the new Washoe County Court House was named after him. Mills was there for the opening ceremony. In June of 2013 Judge Mills Lane was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. In August of the same year the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame also put his name up on their wall of fame.

Today his mind is still sharp. He will turn 80 in November.

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Mike Tyson vs Evander Holyfield II 28. 06. 1997

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  1. Scott 08:07am, 12/06/2018

    You knew it was a big fight when Mills Lane was the ref. “Let’s get it on” was like the lion roaring before an MGM movie.

  2. Pete The Sneak 09:45am, 06/11/2017

    Mills Lane refereeing was as much an event as the fight themselves. Miss him…Peace.

  3. Alt Knight 05:29am, 06/11/2017

    Was Tyson celebrating Purim, here? Holyfiled showed remarkable composure, first ear bite, he should’ve tackled Iron Mike and performed a well deserved ground and pound. Holyfield was truly a classy guy.

  4. Alt Knight 04:47am, 06/11/2017

    “Lets get it on.”

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