AUG. 23, 2017
The Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather fight pits a mixed martial artschampion who has never boxed professionally against an undefeated boxing legend who is 40 years old. All in a caldron of money, celebrities and hype. It has the potential to be a very strange fight. Nothing new for Las Vegas, then.
Since the 1990s, when Las Vegas decisively seized the mantle as the place for the world’s biggest fights, the city has seen more than its share of the bizarre.
No matter what happens on Aug. 26 at the T-Mobile Arena, it will have to be pretty strange to top these five bouts.
Fan Man: November 1993, Caesars Palace
A bout for the heavyweight championship was overshadowed by a guy with a parachute.
Evander Holyfield was bidding to reclaim the title he lost to Riddick Bowe a year before. The venue was an open-air arena by Caesars Palace. Yes, outdoors. Yes, that will become important.
The fight was stopped, while several people at ringside pummeled the intruder. He was taken away on a stretcher.
Bowe’s wife, Judy, became faint during the incident and was taken to a hospital herself.
Twenty-one minutes later, the fight resumed. Holyfield regained his title with a close decision.
Bowe said: “We’ll be back. It was unfortunate when that guy came out of the sky. He frightened my wife.”
The “fan man,” so named because of the fanlike motorized contraption on his back that helped him stay aloft, was James Miller, 30. He would drop in on a couple more sporting events over the years, though never with the same level of notoriety. He was found dead in the Alaskan wilderness in 2003, apparently a suicide.
Bowe and Holyfield fought once more, with Bowe winning. The fight was again at Caesars Palace, but no one came down from the sky.
McCall’s Tears: February 1997, Las Vegas Hilton
Oliver McCall and Lennox Lewis, both former champions, fought for a vacant heavyweight title. McCall had recently been involved in several arrests and trips to rehab, but so have many boxers over the years. No one expected what was to come.
After the third round, McCall did not return to his corner, but instead paced around the ring. In the fourth, he looked nothing like a professional fighter. He threw few if any punches and often just stood still or wandered aimlessly around the ring, to the surprise of the commentators and displeasure of the crowd. Lewis was wary, but got frequent shots in.
After Round 4, McCall was seen to be crying copiously. He defended himself even less in Round 5 and took more blows from Lewis. At this point the referee, Mills Lane (also the ref in the Fan Man fight), quickly stopped the bout.
“My strategy was — and I know it sounds kind of absurd — was a kind of rope-a-dope,” McCall claimed after the fight. He said the crying was an effort to get himself into an emotional state.
The promoter, Bob Arum, told The Los Angeles Times: “We all learned a lesson tonight. If a kid is in rehab, you don’t let him into a major fight.
Did McCall ever return to the sport that seemed to cause him such anguish? He sure did, fighting 38 more times over 18 years, only hanging up his gloves at age 49.
Seven months before, Evander Holyfield had dealt the once unbeatable Mike Tyson only his second career loss, after the Buster Douglas upset.
On the night of their rematch, Tyson fared well for the first two rounds, but the fight was slowed by numerous clinches. That perhaps frustrated Tyson. Late in the third round, during one clinch, he suddenly bit Holyfield’s ear, bloodying it and causing Holyfield to leap up in rage and pain. Tyson then shoved Holyfield from behind.
Referee Mills Lane (again) deducted 2 points from Tyson but allowed the fight to continue after several minutes’ delay. Twenty seconds after the restart, Tyson bit the other ear.
Tyson was disqualified. “He butted me in the second round and he looked at me and butted me again,” Tyson said. “No one deducted points. This is my career. What am I supposed to do? I’ve got children to raise.”
A melee broke out in the ring after the announcement, with Tyson taking a swing at a police officer.
The fight, coupled with the previous loss to Holyfield, brought the end to Tyson’s aura of invincibility. He was 5-3 with 2 no-contests for the rest of his career.
The Ref’s K.O.: August 1998, Las Vegas Hilton
Bernard Hopkins was a middleweight champion and a favorite over the rather unheralded Robert Allen. But a quick victory was not forthcoming.
The fighters came together in a fourth-round clinch and the referee Mills Lane (!) pushed the men apart. Lane was 60 years old and the shove didn’t seem particularly violent, but it mysteriously sent Hopkins through the ropes and to the floor.
Hopkins injured his ankle in the fall, and the fight was stopped and declared a no-contest.
“He bailed out,” Allen told reporters. “He could have continued to fight. I think he just fell through the ropes and took a dive.”
The bizarre ending did set up a rematch the next year, which Hopkins won by knockout. The men fought again in 2004 with Hopkins winning by decision.
Hopkins fought for a title as recently as last December at age 51.
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