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Holyfield Wins a Real Chute-Out : Boxing: After parachutist lands in ring, former champion regains title with majority decision over Bowe.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The sky didn’t fall on Riddick Bowe, but it was close.

Befitting a sport that often verges on the insane, the heavyweight title changed hands Saturday night, but the most memorable instant came from a wild prank dropped from above.

In a tight majority decision, 31-year-old Evander Holyfield stunningly reclaimed the title he lost a year ago. Holyfield beat the bigger, younger Bowe with crackling right and left hooks and subtle movement away from Bowe’s significant blows.

But the picture-perfect performance was delayed and in many ways upstaged by a prank sky-diving stunt that delayed the seventh round for 21 minutes. A sky-diver, identified as James Miller from Las Vegas, circled the Caesars Palace outdoor pavilion, then brought his ultra-light parachute directly into the ring ropes near Bowe’s corner.

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“It was a major league unfortunate incident,” said Bowe’s manager, Rock Newman.

Miller was released from University Medical Center with no apparent injuries and taken into custody by police. There was no word of what charges would be filed.

Bowe’s pregnant wife, Judith, who was sitting near where Miller crashed back into the crowd, fainted and was taken to Sunrise Hospital for observation.

Bowe’s 82-year-old trainer, Eddie Futch, was taken to Valley Hospital after suffering from heart palpitations. A supervisor there said he was “stable and being held for observation only.”

“I saw that parachute guy coming in, I didn’t know what was happening and I was trying to get away,” Holyfield said of the incident. “I did think about that tennis lady (Monica Seles) being stabbed I didn’t know who was he coming after, me or Bowe? And I didn’t want to get hit, either.”

Said a Caesars official: “I’m sure there’s a law against flying into a boxing ring with a parachute.”

During the delay, both fighters prowled the ring and tried to keep warm in the chilly night breeze. Bowe wrapped himself in towels and Holyfield mostly stared out into the area of the crash, shaking his head back and forth.

But they resumed the seventh round in the same rhythm they had all fight long--with Bowe on the attack but Holyfield answering with punishing shots to Bowe’s head.

Holyfield lost an unanimous decision to Bowe a year ago when he stood in front of Bowe and slugged away. This time, he used more movement mixed in with his standard inside brawling.

Bowe was all over Holyfield in the last two rounds, landing a series of hard punches, but he never came close to putting Holyfield down and seemed to know he had lost the fight when the bell rang.

“I told everybody I was coming back because God was giving me the opportunity,” said Holyfield, who became the fourth man to win back the heavyweight title, after Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali and Tim Witherspoon. “I promised them I would win this fight. And I know it seemed strange to people.

“But after watching the first fight, I knew I couldn’t go toe to toe for 12 rounds. I knew if I did the same thing I would be beaten again.”

Bowe came out aggressively early, but seemed to tire by the third round, when Holyfield began to pile up points with hard shots to Bowe’s head. By the fourth, Bowe had a cut over his nose and looked noticeably slower.

Bowe was staggered in the fourth round with a Holyfield right.

In the seventh, Bowe was rallying before the parachute delay, but could not maintain the momentum.

One judge ruled the fight a draw, 114-114, but two others gave Holyfield the fight by 115-113 and 115-114 margins.

“I thought it was a very close fight, and I thought it could have been given to him,” Newman said. “But there is no quarrel with the decision.

“I said to Riddick in the dressing room that this is simply another experience in his life. A true champion’s character is determined and judged by how they handle adversity.”

After the decision was announced, Bowe hugged Holyfield and said he now was “second best.”

Bowe had said before the fight that he would knock out Holyfield this time, but after the fight he laughed and joked with Holyfield.

“I think a rubber match will be a big, big thing,” Newman said.

Newman said he didn’t want to take anything from Holyfield, but that it was obvious that the parachute stunt bothered the fighters.

Bowe was not told that his wife was taken to the hospital, but he did know that she had fainted.

“Let me tell you, if Riddick had known that, I’m sure he would have left that ring and gone right to the hospital to be with her,” Newman said.

Newman said that Bowe, 26, would sit down and re-evaluate where they were and where they wanted to go. He said he would see “what Riddick really wanted to do” in the next few days.

Holyfield, for his part, said he would make no decision on whether to keep fighting or retire. After the loss to Bowe, Holyfield announced his retirement, only to reconsider the decision days later.

Fight Notes

Dan Duva, promoter for Pernell Whitaker, Saturday challenged Julio Cesar Chavez to accept a rematch of the two fighters’ majority-decision draw, and said he would guarantee Chavez a purse of $7 million. Duva said he would like the rematch to come sometime in the spring, at Las Vegas, preferably at Caesars Palace. If he doesn’t get a rematch with Chavez, Whitaker said he would be most interested in a rematch with Buddy McGirt, whom Whitaker beat in a decision earlier this year.

By the Numbers

A breakdown of the punches thrown in WBA and IBF heavyweight title fight between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield, as provided by CompuBox, Inc.:

Bowe Holyfield Total Punches 786 514 Punches connected 353 253 Pct. connected 45 49 Jabs thrown 347 190 Jabs connected 171 80 Pct. connected 49 42 Power Punches thrown 439 324 Power connected 182 173 Pct. connected 42 53 Knockdowns 0 0

Holyfield wins WBA and IBF titles with 12-round majority decision.


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