Back in the ring
Mills Lane’s sons revive their father’s boxing promotion company
“In boxing and in life, there are only three things one has to remember: Hands up, chin down and keep going forward.”
“Let’s get it on!”
For boxing fans around the world—and even those who aren’t very familiar with the sport—Mills Lane’s signature line can mean only one thing: It’s time for a fight.
Lane first uttered the phrase that would become so famous on June 11, 1982. Larry Holmes was defending his heavyweight title against Gerry Cooney in one of boxing history’s most anticipated fights. Millions of people watched on pay-per-view, setting the then-record as the highest grossing boxing match ever. Lane was selected as the referee for the super fight, and with the world watching, an acquaintance asked him, did he plan on saying hi to his mom or anything like that? “No,” Lane replied. “I’m going to say, ‘Let’s get it on!'” The phrase stuck. Lane used it in every fight that he refereed until he retired in 1998.
In 2000, when he decided to dabble in the business side of boxing, the former Washoe County District Attorney and District Judge used his catchphrase as the namesake of Let’s Get It On Promotions. The company started off well, promoting a few successful shows, but in 2002, Lane suffered a debilitating stroke that left him unable to run the company. The business got a standing eight count.
But it wasn’t a knockout. By 2005, Mills’ son Terry Lane had graduated from New School University in New York, and his younger brother Tommy had turned 18. They decided to begin the long journey through the endless bureaucracy of boxing’s governing bodies to resurrect Let’s Get It On.
On July 6, they’ll stage their first boxing card in Reno. According to Terry Lane, now 24, they are “the youngest boxing promoters in history.”
Thinking outside the ring
“We were always going to take over eventually,” says Tommy, 20. “But at the time [of the stroke], we weren’t old enough or experienced enough. I was still in high school.”
Their development has been understandably accelerated, as they were raised with the sport.
“I’ve been going to fights since I was in the womb,” says Tommy.
“It’s been such a big part of our lives,” says Terry. “We grew up around boxing and boxers and promoters. All of our friends are involved with it. I can’t imagine our lives without boxing.”
They can, however, imagine the world of boxing drastically improving.
“Everything needs to be improved,” says Terry. “It’s not one thing. It’s a comprehensive problem.”
The problem, according to the Lanes, is boxing’s historic resistance to change. They attribute their willingness to adapt and become “younger” and “hipper” to the success of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
“The UFC shows have the lights and loud music and commentators that are excited about the sport,” says Terry. “Then, you switch over to HBO, and you have a bunch of old guys like (78-year-old commentator) Larry Merchant rambling on, making these awful analogies.”
Terry is passionate about this subject. He speaks with genuine frustration about the “mediocrity” of boxing, saying that “the bar needs to be set high.”
The brothers are starting small. They’ve signed two fighters to exclusive contracts, Derek and Tyler Hinkey of McDermitt. The first Native American brothers to compete in the Olympic trials in 2004, the Hinkeys were much sought-after prospects before signing with the Lanes.
Derek, who has more than 130 amateur fights to his record, has plenty of experience with dishonest boxing promoters. When the Lanes actually showed up to a match they said they were coming to, “We were like, ‘Wow, they followed through,’” he says. Over the past year and a half, they’ve developed a strong connection.
“The best way I can describe it is that it feels like I’m with family,” says Derek.
Derek says he “couldn’t be happier” about the upcoming July 6 fight card. “Fighting on the same card with my brother and (Reno boxer) Cedric Ferguson, it’s like when we were 5; everybody coming down, fighting in the same ring,” he says.
In addition to the Hinkey brothers and Ferguson, Reno’s Jaime Rodriguez and Carson City’s Michael Peralta will box, and Maureen “The Real Million Dollar Baby” Shea, from New York, will fight in a 6-round co-feature bout. Shea was the main sparring partner for Hilary Swank in preparation for the Oscar award-winning film Million Dollar Baby. The main event of the evening will feature Jesse Brinkley, the Yerington boxer featured on NBC’s reality show, The Contender, facing Dallas Vargas from Toledo, Ohio.
“These are tough, competitive fights,” says Terry. Another of his gripes with the state of professional boxing is the lack of true competition. Experienced, talented boxers, afraid of the possibility of losing a match, prefer to fight lesser opponents and avoid any risk. “We have guys that are supposedly world champions fighting guys who have never fought more than six rounds,” he says. “It’s awful. Who wants to see that?”
The Lanes envision an eclectic, stimulating atmosphere on July 6. The ring is in an outdoor area of the Eldorado. There will be several tents providing food and drinks, as well as live music. But the key to success, according to the Lane brothers, is great boxing.
“We want to incorporate the show business aspect of it, coupled with good, competitive prize fighting,” Terry says.
Depending on the success of this first show, the Lanes want to promote another card as early as October. Jesse Brinkley has made clear his desire to fight his fellow Contender cast member and Northern Nevada native Joey Gilbert. The Lanes seem skeptical that such a fight will take place any time soon but agree with Brinkley that the two “should fight.” Looking into the future, the Lanes want to promote four to five events a year and eventually want their cards featured on national television.
Meanwhile, Terry and Tommy Lane are striving to make their father proud. His example has provided the benchmark for all of their decisions, in life and in business.
“He used to always say, ‘There’s no good business with a bad man,’” says Terry. To that end, the Lane brothers are trying to bring something to the sport of boxing that is unfortunately rare: integrity.
“We want to develop relationships in a good way,” says Terry. “We want to be kind and treat people with respect.”
It all seems a little idealistic, especially in the shark-infested waters of professional boxing. The sport is known to be notoriously corrupt and run almost entirely by greedy old men. The Lane brothers understand the knocks against them. They’re too young, they’re too nice, and their competition is too rich and too powerful. But they are strengthened by the lesson of perseverance Mills Lane imparted on them throughout their lives.