Fan Man: Remembering the most bizarre occurrence in boxing history

During the 1993 heavyweight title fight between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield, James Jarrett Miller, a public nuisance who ultimately killed himself in the Alaska wilderness, garnered more attention than the two pugilists.

How could this be? This was a heavyweight title fight! Easy. Miller flew into the side of the ring during the seventh round of the fight at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. He made his flight via fan-propelled paraglider. Ever after, Miller would be known as Fan Man. It was believed, he had attempted to land in the ring but became tangled in the lighting ring, though he later denied that was his intent. The combination of security and the fighters’ entourages dragged him from ringside, throwing a few haymakers of their own for good measure.

Miller was beaten so badly he was knocked unconscious. The fight was stopped for 26 minutes while Fan Man stole the show. Reports indicated one security officer in particular pummeled the Maryland native with more than 20 blows. Fans began tearing his paraglider apart for souvenirs as he was whisked away to the hospital.

He was charged only with “dangerous flying” and held on $200 bail after his release from the hospital. Not exactly a hefty price to pay, although one could argue he paid the cost physically in terms of the battering.

You can watch the full absurdity below.

25-year-old Riddick Bowe had beaten Holyfield, six years his elder, in the pair’s first encounter. Eschewing the cake title defence, Bowe consented to battle Holyfield again. This time, Holyfield, workmanlike puncher that he was, took Bowe the difference, winning narrowly. 115-113, 115-114, and 114-114.

The lack of excitement in the match itself, and the dull figure of Holyfield himself ensured Bowe-Holyfield II would forever be remembered as the Fan Man Fight.

Miller, an accomplished paraglider, didn’t let the beating at the boxing match stop him from further hijinks. In 1994, he buzzed the Raiders-Broncos game in at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. That same month, he went to the UK and skydived into the middle of a Bolton Wanderers-Arsenal Match, after which he was imprisoned for seven days, then deported.

He kept his sights set on the UK; In February of 1994, Miller made his way back into the country for a little more paragliding. This time, he circled Buckingham Palace, eventually landing on its roof (In the United States, he’d have been shot from the sky!)

After landing, he wasn’t done. Miller ripped off his trousers to reveal he’d painted himself green from the waist down…for a heretofore unknown reason.

As mentioned, he hung himself in Alaska in 2002. The effects of coronary artery disease and the associated massive medical bills are seen as a contributing factor in this singular gadfly’s decision to end his life.

Miller was never really clear about why he chose to interrupt the Bowe fight or his other stunts. His younger brother, however, said: “He was basically bucking society. He was mocking our rules, making up his own as he went along, kind of just making a mockery of our society and the way it works and what our expectations are.”