‘Fan Man’

The boxing history books record that Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield II, a world heavyweight championship rematch staged at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas on November 6, 1993, resulted in an uninspiring points win for Holyfield. However, the bout will always be remembered, not for its outcome, but rather for its interruption, during the seventh round, by the unscheduled arrival of 30-year-old James Miller, a.k.a. ‘Fan Man’.

Propelled by a motorised parasail or, in other words, a powered paraglider, Miller reportedly circled several times before crashing onto the apron of the ring. The suspension lines of his parachute caught in the overhead lights, as a result of which he fell, or was dragged, backwards into the crowd, where he was promptly set upon by security staff and spectators and beaten unconscious. Indeed, Miller later quipped, “It was a heavyweight fight, and I was the only guy who got knocked out.”

In any event, the contest was suspended for twenty-one minutes while the parachute was untangled and, meanwhile, Miller was rushed to hospital. His injuries were only superficial and he was subsequently jailed, briefly, charged with dangerous flying and released on $200 bail. Miller claimed he had landed in the ring by accident, although footage from the circling ESPN blimp strongly suggested otherwise and, at the time, refused to say why he had done so; it was later revealed that his stunt was a personal protest against violence. Whatever his motivation, the ‘Fan Man’ incident was selected as Event of the Year by American boxing magazine ‘The Ring’.

Sadly, deeply indebted as a result of medical bills resulting from coronary artery disease, with which he was diagnosed in 2001, Miller disappeared from his home in Alaska in September, 2002. His body was found, six months later, by bear hunters on the remote Resurrection Pass Trail, on the Kenai Peninsula, just south of Anchorage, where he had committed suicide.

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