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IT'S AN HONEST TRY AT PROMOTING.

Byline: MICHAEL ROSENTHAL Boxing

In some ways, Mills Lane is like many other figures in boxing who've made the transition to promoter. He's bright, he works hard, he's well connected and he knows the sport.

However, most observers give him a particularly good chance of succeeding in a nasty business because of his not-so-secret weapon: integrity.

Lane formed ``Let's Get In On Promotions'' with partner Tony Holden only a few months ago, but already the phone won't stop ringing. And it didn't take long to land a whopper: They're promoting the Naseem Hamed-Marco Antonio Barrera bout on April 7.

Clearly, this is only the beginning.

``First of all, he's the most recognized sports official in the world,'' said Marc Ratner, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. ``A lot of that's because of the (ear-biting) Tyson-Holyfield fight and how he handled it. It brings him instant credibility and I think that's very important.

``He's seen by the public as a no-nonsense guy. . . . I'd like for him to still be referring, but I think he's great for the sport.''

Lane, 63, wasn't exactly hurting for something to do when Holden approached him in November about the possibility of forming a company.

Since retiring in 1998 as one of the sport's great referees, Lane has (in no particular order) continued to work as a senior partner in a Reno, Nev., law firm, lent his image and voice to the MTV claymation series ``Celebrity Death Match,'' and has his own courtroom television show, ``Judge Mills Lane.''

Holden hangs out with a lot of celebrities. He insists no one - no one - garners more attention than Lane on the streets because his face is everywhere.

However, the one-time pro fighter longed to get back into the boxing game in some capacity. His first thought was to pursue another realistic dream: He wanted to become a member of the respected Nevada State Athletic Commission. And then Holden, a promoter for whom Lane had worked as a ref, came calling.

``When Tony called, he asked, 'Do you want to help boxing?' '' Lane said. ``I said, 'Hell, yes.' He said, 'If you go to the commission, you'll do one thing in one state. If you promote, you can promote the way you're supposed to promote, you could give kids direction, have fun and make some money, too.

``I talked to my family and some friends and said, 'Let's go.' ''

Highest on Lane's priority list is the welfare of the fighters, which is no surprise to those who know him.

One, he wants to be certain his fighters' assets are protected and plans to arrange for legal and financial advice for each of them. The goal, he said, is ``when his career winds down, he'll be in a position to go on with his life without doing too much else if he doesn't want to.''

And, two, he plans to fight to implement the safest method of weighing in fighters. As it is, they hit the scales the day before they fight and are often dangerously dehydrated because of last-minute weight loss. He proposes that they be required to be within 3 percent of the weight limit a week before the bout.

At the same time, he'll demand that his fighters carry themselves as he does every day of his life: professionally. To be certain, only the most serious and dedicated fighters need apply.

``You fight for money,'' he said. ``This is a business. And a fighter's office happens to be the gym and the road. You have to go to the office every day and do what needs to be done.

``The best pure fighter I ever saw was Roberto Duran. But he was never a complete pro to me because he'd go from 135 (pounds) to 190 between fights. That's not being professional.''

He could talk for hours about his ongoing list of ideas. And while many would dismiss such talk as a way a money-hungry, unscrupulous promoter might try to ingratiate himself with the public, no one doubts that Lane is sincere.

It's one reason Hamed contacted him about the Barrera fight and why others are expected to follow.

``Mills adds the missing element for promoters today: integrity,'' said Holden, an established promoter who helped erect Tommy Morrison's career. ``Ask every fighter who signs with a promoter. Ninety percent are scared they can't trust him.

``Mills shakes their hand and they can sleep at night. That's the main reason I proposed this to him.''

Of course, Lane wants to contribute more than his name and reputation.

He admits he has a lot to learn about promoting. As a lawyer, he handles the legal side of the business and absorbs as much as he can from Holden with the intensity he once used to separate two determined heavyweight fighters.

Undoubtedly, he'll learn quickly. And then, he said, he'll move on. Retirement? No way. Lane has too much energy, too much to do.

Before he finally is finished with boxing, he wants to fulfill that dream of his: He wants to join the commission in Nevada. Not for the money; there's no money to be made there. He simply loves everything about the sport.

Indeed, it's fun. No, Lane said, ``It's a kick in the butt.''

--Tua-Goossen: David Tua, angling for another shot at Lennox Lewis, will have a new man in his corner as he prepares to face Danell Nicholson on March 23 on Showtime: Joe Goossen.

The Van Nuys-based trainer, who handles world champion Joel Casamayor, and Tua open camp today in Las Vegas.

``The most exciting thing about it is that once we beat Danell Nicholson,'' said Goossen, ``we get an automatic shot at Lennox Lewis. I know it'll be the second shot for Tua.

``That's hopefully why I'm here, to change the scenario around.''

Goossen shied away from the injury issue. Tua's handlers said a rib injury prevented him from performing at his best when Lewis easily outpointed him in November.

Instead, Goossen focused on changes Tua has made - he hired a nutritional expert, for example - and how the fighter can correct the errors he made the first time around.

Most conspicuously, Tua was unable to get inside on the taller Lewis.

``One of the keys to getting inside is confidence in your defense when a guy with big, strong, long arms is hitting you,'' Goossen said. ``If you're not confident in your defensive skills, you won't be able to take the two, three steps forward you need to take to get inside. David hesitated against Lewis. And, as the old proverb says, he who hesitates is lost.

``It's going to take a lot of practice in the gym against solid (sparring partners), but he'll be chock full of confidence in his defense.''

Tua already feels a second meeting with Lewis could turn out differently.

``What I've observed with Lennox Lewis is that he's beatable. And David Tua knows that, too,'' Goossen said.

Goossen, whose brother Dan Goossen promotes Tua, replaces Ronnie Shields.

--Rabbit punches: IBF champ Bernard Hopkins and WBC titleholder Keith Holmes reportedly have agreed to meet April 14. The winner would face the winner of a tentative May 12 matchup between WBA champ William Joppy and Felix Trinidad. . . .

Correction: The name of Miguel Cotto, the hot prospect out of Puerto Rico who has signed with Top Rank, was misspelled in last week's column.

The junior welterweight makes his debut Feb. 23 in Austin, Texas, on ESPN2.

--Coming up: Vassiliy Jirov defends his IBF cruiserweight title against Alex Gonzalez on Tuesday in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Vinny Pazienza takes on Aaron Davis in a 10-round super middleweight bout on ESPN2 Friday from Ledyard, Conn.

On Saturday, unbeaten Harry Simon faces Nicholas Cervera for Simon's WBO junior middleweight title in Widnes, England. The card is on Showtime.

And, on Sunday, former heavyweight contender Ray Mercer, 39, faces Jeff Pegues in a 10-round fight in Elgin, Ill, on Fox.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo Former referee Mills Lane, center, has decided to be a promoter.

Charles Kelly/Associated Press File Photo
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 5, 2001
Words:1345
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