Parachutist lands top punch Drop-in catches fighters off guard FLIGHT NIGHT AT FIGHT

November 08, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Little is known about James Miller, a 30-year-old white male residing in Las Vegas.

But the sky diver guaranteed himself a place in sports trivia for his near-catastrophic landing outside the ring during the seventh round of the Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield heavyweight championship rematch at Caesars Palace outdoor arena Saturday night.

Miller, wearing a red flight suit and navigating a rainbow-colored parachute, first was spotted in the hotel's vicinity by a blimp feeding pictures for the closed-circuit telecast of the bout.

The Las Vegas Police Air Support Unit was requested to warn Miller away from the area. But 1 minute, 10 seconds into the seventh round, Miller and his motorized parasail crashed into the ringside ropes, several feet from Bowe's corner.

On impact, his parachute snagged in the lights over the ring, setting off a few sparks. Miller fell backward onto several spectators, causing slight injuries. Bowe's wife, Judy, fainted and was briefly hospitalized.

Also, Bowe's trainer, Eddie Futch, suffered heart palpitations, but also was released from the hospital after examination.

An unidentified member of Bowe's security force was seen on videotape hitting Miller in the head with a cordless phone, and several angry spectators also assaulted Miller.

"He was out cold and shaking," said Marie Holyfield, a sister of the fighter.

Police cuffed the bloodied parachutist and transported him to University Medical Center. He was treated and released, then taken to Clark County Detention Center.

Miller was charged with "dangerous flying," a misdemeanor, and, at 2:28 a.m. yesterday local time, released on $200 bail.

A local sky-diving expert, Tom Cannarozzo, told The New York Times that Miller runs the British School for Paragliding in Gean, a town 40 miles south of Las Vegas. A man who answered a phone call to the school said that any questions would have to be sent there via fax. The Times reported no response to its fax sent to the school.

No one in the crowd of more than 14,000 was seriously hurt. Had Miller landed atop the ring canopy, he might have knocked over the ring lights, causing a fire and possible panic among the spectators.

"I'm the fan man, the man with the fan," Miller said after landing.

Rock Newman, Bowe's manager, said: "I thought it was an assassination attempt on [Louis] Farrakhan."

Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam, was among Newman's guests.

Neither of the fighters, forced to wait 21 minutes in the 50-degree desert air before the fight was resumed, called the bizarre incident a disruptive factor.

Bowe, however, expressed concern for his wife, pregnant with their fourth child.

"Of course, I was worried when they carried Judy from ringside in a stretcher," he said. "But I knew if I quit the fight at that point, I'd have been branded a quitter. I just had to pray she was all right."

A sonogram did not reveal any injury to her or the fetus.

Holyfield had other concerns.

"I saw him [the sky diver] before Riddick because I was facing that way," Holyfield said. "The first thought in my mind was about that girl [tennis star Monica Seles] who got stabbed by some crazy fan. I didn't know what this guy had in mind. So I retreated. I just didn't want to get hit by him."

The incident was reminiscent of the NFL playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and then-Baltimore Colts at Memorial Stadium in December 1976, when a plane flown by rabid Colts fan Donald Kroner stalled and crashed into the upper deck after the game. There were no injuries in that incident.

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