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.