Arthur Mercante Sr., the Hall of Fame boxing referee who lived in Garden City for 44 years, died peacefully in his sleep this morning at his home in Westbury. Mercante, who refereed 120 title fights, was 90 years old.

The list of fighters whose bouts were refereed by Mercante reads like the honor roll from the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., which inducted Mercante in 1995. Most famously, Mercante was the third man in the ring for Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier I on March 8, 1971 at Madison Square Garden. Mercante was proud to be one of three members of the Boxing Hall of Fame from Brockton, Mass. along with former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano and former middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

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His ring career began in 1954, and Mercante's first title bout was the rematch between heavyweights Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson on June 20, 1960 at the Polo Grounds in New York. Mercante refereed his last title bout on Sept. 29, 2001 at the age of 81.

Mercante is survived by his wife of 56 years, Gloria, and four sons, Glenn, James, Arthur Jr., who also is a well-known boxing referee, and Thomas. He had three grandchildren, Brittany, Dylan and Sophie.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Fairchild Sons Funeral Fome located at 1201 Franklin Ave. in Garden City. Visiting hours are scheduled from 2-4 p.m. and from 7-9 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday. A funeral mass is planned for 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Joseph's R.C. Church at 130 5th St. in Garden City.

Newsday is in the process of preparing a more extensive obituary, which will appear in Sunday's print edition and the online edition, about the life of a man who was as much of an icon in Nassau County as he was in the ring.