Arthur Mercante, the third man in the ring for Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali and a host of lesser-known fighters over a half-century career in boxing, has died.
Mercante was 90. He died peacefully at his Westbury, N.Y., home on Saturday, according to a report in Newsday.
Mercante's most famous assignment was the "Fight of the Century," the highly anticipated 1971 battle between undefeated heavyweights Ali and Joe Frazier.
Frazier knocked down Ali in the 15th round at Madison Square Garden in New York to seal a unanimous decision. Drawing double duty as referee and judge, as was the custom of that era, Mercante scored the bout 8-6-1 for Frazier.
Mercante would become the go-to ref for several big 1970s fights.
He had a busy night in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1973, intervening on six occasions as George Foreman repeatedly drilled Frazier to the canvas en route to a stunning second-round stoppage.
Mercante also worked Ali's victory at Yankee Stadium over Ken Norton in 1976. It was just confirmed on Friday that boxing would return to Yankee Stadium in June (albeit the new venue) for the first time since the Ali-Norton bout.
Mercante stayed active through the next two decades, officiating bouts involving modern greats Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Roy Jones Jr., Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson.
He was 81 when he drew his final big assignment, working at Madison Square Garden in 2001 on the undercard of Bernard Hopkins-Felix Trinidad, an emotional night which included a crowd of hundreds of police and fire department workers just two weeks after the terror attacks of 9/11.
Mercante was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. in 1995.
Born in 1920, he boxed as an amateur and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
His first assignment which drew worldwide attention was the 1959 heavyweight title between Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson.
He would go on to become arguably the most famous referee in boxing history, with only Arthur Donovan and Ruby Goldstein rivalling that claim.
Mercante's son, Arthur Jr., was also a referee and judge.
Mercante recounted his life inside and outside the ring with a 2006 book, Inside the Ropes.