MAD Fan man crashed Riddick Bowe vs Evander Holyfield by landing parachute onto ring ropes, he was knocked unconscious and recreated in The Simpsons, but later committed suicide in bizarre circumstances.
James ‘Fan Man’ Miller became a part of boxing history when he crashed his paramotor into the Riddick Bowe vs Evander Holyfield rematch in 1993.
Holyfield had lost his titles to Bowe the year before and started positively on the quest for revenge. He was clearly leading at the halfway point, en route to finally securing the recognition which eluded him throughout his early career spent in Mike Tyson’s shadow.
Then, out of the sky, all hell broke loose.
After one minute ten seconds of round seven, Holyfield did what no boxer should ever do – he took his eye off of his opponent.
Just this once, the decision to do so was fully justified.
“I see this guy come crashing into the ropes, boom,” Evander told HBO, “When he did that, the look on my face had Riddick turning around, looking.”
Bowe was facing the opposite direction from the incident and so initially only saw Holyfield’s reaction: “I thought he’d seen King Kong.”
Pandemonium broke out at ringside as security rushed to neutralise what they saw as a serious threat.
Many instinctively panicked, assuming the man was either a terrorist carrying a bomb or a hitman targeting political figures Louis Farrakhan and Jesse Jackson, both of whom were in attendance.
Nowadays it would be preposterous to suggest a random man would be able to simply glide into the outdoor Caesars Palace venue in Las Vegas and cause chaos.
However, in this pre-9/11 America, the protocols for dealing with such incidents were sketchy.
As a result, the response was utter bedlam. Security from Bowe’s team were first to apprehend Miller and reacted by simply punching him unconscious.
Fan Man later joked: “It was a heavyweight fight and I was the only guy who got knocked out.”
It was a touch of fortune that the quirky pilot was so experienced, as he guided his machine to fall directly onto the ring ropes, rather than crashing into any spectators.
This lucky landing likely saved lives.
Nevertheless, danger was not fully averted with Fan Man out cold.
The real threat came from his parachute, which had become entangled in the ring lights as he came down.
Event organisers scrambled to shut off the lights, fearing a fire, with the strings of the chute also strewn across the front row seats.
Amid all the mayhem, Bowe’s pregnant wife feinted at ringside. She was taken out of the arena on a stretcher and transported to hospital by ambulance.
“I thought about it for a long time standing there, whether I should go with her, whether I should stay here,” said Bowe, who ultimately chose to stay and finish the fight.
“I never wanted people to say, ‘Riddick Bowe was a quitter.'”
It took 21 minutes, but eventually the lights were cleared, a badly beaten Miller was taken to hospital and the fight was ready to resume.
The two men would later argue over who benefited from the break most.
Despite the situation with his wife, many still believe that Bowe, who came in heavy for the bout, gained an advantage from the rest.
Commentator Jim Lampley said: “It could be the best thing to happen to Riddick Bowe if there’s a ten or 20 minute delay as now seems possible.”
Co-commentator Larry Merchant added: “You’re right, it may be an angel out of the sky for Riddick Bowe.”
Holyfield had built an early lead attempting to regain his title, but Bowe battled back in the second half.
When the scorecards were tallied, it turned out that the disrupted seventh round – which had a 21-minute break halfway through – proved crucial.
Re: Fan Man
I watch that live on pay-per-view. I couldn't believe my eyes. Imagine fighting 7 rounds and then having to sit in the cool night air trying to stay warm and fresh for the Bell witch rang 21 minutes later
Re: Fan Man
That was surreal live. I thought for sure that fan was going to fall back onto someone and get messy. He was really beat to a pulp. I always thought the respite benefited Bowe more. Didn't the guy commit suicide later on??
Re: Fan Man
In the aftermath, Miller was discharged from hospital and taken to the Clark County detention center, where he was charged with dangerous flying.
He later pleaded guilty to a charge of misdemeanour trespassing and spent eight days in jail.
As part of the deal, this sentence coincided with Holyfield’s next fight against Michael Moorer, preventing him from repeating the feat.
Fan Man made headlines worldwide and became an overnight sensation. He was even later recreated in an episode of The Simpsons when the show was at its cultural peak.
Regardless, the kooky character chose not to buy into the limelight and never truly revealed his motives.
Miller turned up for one brief and bizarre press conference following the fight, with The Sun’s Colin Hart among those in attendance.
He gave a few short answers, inexplicably claimed the whole thing was an accident and left reporters bewildered as he then powered up his paramotor and ‘flew off in the direction of the mountains’.
Miller later changed his story about the incident being accidental and said he’d instead crashed the event because he didn’t like violence and wanted to stop the two men fighting.
This would not be the last time he did so.
Miller was arrested early in 1994 after flying over the Los Angeles Coliseum during the NFL play-off between the LA Raiders and Denver Broncos.
Fan Man then came to England and flew low over an Arsenal vs Bolton FA Cup tie the next month.
He escaped police on that occasion, but was arrested a week later for landing on top of Buckingham Palace.
Miller stripped naked to reveal his lower half was painted green, with fluorescent paint on his private area.
Thankfully, Queen Elizabeth II was not home at the time.
Fan Man appeared before Bow Street magistrates facing six charges of violating public order and air regulations.
He was given the option of either accepting a £200 fine for each of his offences or serving seven days in jail.
He naively opted for the prison sentence and was then deported back to the US.
At this stage, his story began to take a horribly sad turn.
Fan Man struggled to find work owing to the stigma of his multiple convictions and quirky reputation.
Miller was branded ‘five pence short of a shilling’ by Scotland Yard and known as a ‘weirdie’ by people back home in Nevada. He even received death threats from some fans furious with his interruptions at sporting events.
He chose to move away from it all in 1996, heading to Valdez, Alaska, where he lived in a hut that had no indoor plumbing, ran a computer business and gave flying lessons.
Over the next decade, he suffered from illnesses as a result of worry and stress, but had little money for health care.
Eventually, existing heart problems intensified and he underwent hugely expensive double heart-bypass surgery, which forced him to give up paragliding.
With his true passion lost and his pregnant girlfriend about to be laboured with the financial worries of his medical bills, Miller chose to commit suicide.
True to form, the bizarre circumstances in which he enacted his death saw Fan Man evoke confusion once again.
In 2002, aged 38, Miller disappeared into the Alaskan wilderness.
He was declared missing at the time his son was born and it was not until several months later that deer hunters discovered his decomposing remains on a route called Resurrection Pass.
Fan Man hanged himself by the strings of his parachute.
It appears this eternally mysterious end was what Fan Man intended, but pure fluke denied him.
Regardless of his tragic conclusion, James ‘Fan Man’ Miller’s legacy will live on in boxing as he provided the sport with one of it’s purest moments of beautiful insanity.
Re: Fan Man
Wow thanks NoSaving. I always wondered what had happened to Fan Man. What a sad, tragic life that guy ended up living.
Re: Fan Man
Yes I cried a bit, a sec or 2, thinking of life passing, for all of us, and this strange figure, made a very odd historical mark on boxing, even on the world, albeit perhaps less so, and it will remain forever, whether we call it fame, infamy, insanity..... you think of the story of life, we are all in the same boat, troubles, problems, struggles,..... this poor guy sure had his share of struggle. God bless us all.
Re: Fan Man
did anybody score the 2nd fight for Bowe? I did. Very close fight.
Re: Fan Man
He caught a world class ass-whooping, I know that much.
Re: Fan Man
It was a close fight and I think the break helped Evander because he was told to pick up the pace after the undue delay by Fan Man. Holyfield bulked up in weight and muscle which helped him absorb the punches better and he had Manny in his corner who wanted him to fight at a rhythm which was throwing punches in combinations.
Originally Posted by mrbig1
Bowe did not help himself as he was not as lean as he was for the first fight. Bowe also had a couple of very easy defences after he beat Holyfield the first time so he was not as motivated. Evander also fought a smarter fight and deserved the decision.