Matt Mills Lane, the Hall of Fame referee who officiated the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield “Bite Fight” and more than 100 other championship matches, Tuesday morning at his home in Reno, Nevada, his son Terry Lane confirmed to ESPN. He was 85 years old.
Lin, known for his catchphrase “Let’s Get On”, suffered a stroke in March 2002 that left him partially paralyzed and left him practically unable to speak.
He was surrounded by his wife, Kay, and two sons, Terry and Tommy, during his final days. Much of that time was spent watching videos of nearly 50 fights he managed through the 1980s and 1990s, including Marvin Hagler’s 1979 draw against Vito Anofermo for the middleweight championship.
“The past 20 years after stroke have been very difficult, frankly,” said Terry Lin, who manages top Chinese boxers Zhang Jili and Fanlong Meng. “…we are relieved by the outpouring of support.
“He was such a truly amazing father and husband and I don’t know if people can see that kind and sensitive side of him. My mum has taken care of him since the stroke; he hasn’t spent a single night in a nursing home. I don’t know if December 6 is the date of my father’s death or a new life for her.”
Lin, who is seen as the third man in the ring, took up boxing after he joined the Marine Corps in 1956 and was subsequently defeated at the US Olympic Trials in 1960 in San Francisco.
He turned professional as a welterweight the following year and suffered a first-round TKO loss in his debut. Lin went on to win 10 straight fights (with six KOs) and retired in 1967 with a 10-1 record.
He graduated from the University of Utah School of Law in 1970 and won his first title the following year.
Lin always seemed to find himself in his big boxing moments. Whether it was Tyson DQ’s victory over Peter McNeely or Julio Cesar Chavez’s rematch victory over Meldrick Taylor, Lin was there as the most celebrated referee in boxing history.
In 1998, Bernard Hopkins’ fight with Robert Allen ended in a no contest when Hopkins was thrown out of the ring while Lane was trying to crack one of his many victories. Even his last fight – a first-round KO of Tommy Hearns from Jay Snyder in 1998 – was marked by a very special double knockout.
That same year, Lane entered the mainstream with his syndicated court show, “Judge Mills Lane,” which ran until 2001 (the Savannah, Georgia, native previously worked as a district attorney and district judge).
Lane added to his pop culture stature when MTV’s popular Claymation series, “Celebrity Deathmatch” debuted in 1998 with Lane as the full arbiter with his trademark iconic style.
“Everything is discipline,” Lane told the Los Angeles Times in 1991. “When I’m working a fight, I give the same energy and attention to a quadruple as I do to a million dollar fight. The way I see it, either way, that night, it’s the most important fight of those fighters’ lives.”
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