On a chilly, 54-degree Las Vegas night, Nov. 6, 1993, when two heavyweights were six rounds and 70 seconds into the boxing match of the year, the hardest hit of the fight sent him over the ropes. He was hit again and again, wap, wap, wap, after he toppled into the ringside seats -- a beat-down issued by a mob.
He was James Miller, and he wasn't on the championship card titled "Repeat Or Revenge." At the opening bell, he wasn't even in the 15,000-seat outdoor stadium, built on a Caesars Palace parking lot. At that moment in the seventh round, the intrusion of this uninvited third party transformed boxing from good theater, with Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe as the main event, into a theater of the absurd.
Wap, wap, wap. Miller floated by paraglider into the edge of the ring, helped by a strapped-on, battery-operated propeller. An HBO crew was alerted to him and began filming 20 seconds before touchdown. As he grew closer, the crowd stirred. Marc Ratner, head of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, seated ringside with his fingers on the canvas, sensed a commotion behind him.
"When you hear a sound in the crowd at a boxing match," Ratner explained, "usually it's a fight, and not the one you paid to see."
The ropes of Miller's paraglider became entangled in the overhead lights as he landed. Then, all hell broke loose, with a variety of impulsive behaviors, some frightened, some courageous. Some fans scurried for cover under the ring. Rock Newman, the manager for Bowe, immediately threw himself over his guests seated next to him -- Minister Louis Farrakhan and Jessie Jackson -- and acted as a human shield. Newman was prepared to take a bullet for both men, whom he greatly admired.
"My first thought was that someone was trying to take them out," said Newman.
Debbie Munch, longtime publicist for Caesars, was one of a four-person Response Leadership Team that actually had a course of action in place in case of a disturbance; that would not be unusual at a championship fight, where the unexpected often happens. Hours before the event, the team did a walk-through practice, over and over, just to be safe.
"The ring announcer would climb into the ring immediately and calm the crowd, security would be alerted and an ambulance on site would be called if necessary," she said. "People knew exactly where to stand and where to be. We went through this many times, although we never rehearsed for somebody falling from the sky in a parachute."
Wap, wap, wap. The boxers and referee Mills Lane, as luck would have it, were at the opposite end of the ring. Holyfield saw the commotion first and dropped his dukes. All three froze momentarily, then the boxers went to their corners. Meanwhile, the other fight continued, three rows from the ring.
Wap, wap, wap. The year before, cellular phone pioneer Motorola had introduced the 3200 model. It was bulky and unsightly, 7.68 inches long and 1.27 pounds. It resembled an elongated brick and, according to some in Bowe's camp, was fingered as the weapon used by a Bowe security member wearing a black beanie who clobbered Miller three times. Lucky for Miller, his crash helmet absorbed the blows.
Before Caesars' security could rescue him, Miller was grabbed by other members of Bowe's team, and there was a motive. Bowe's wife at the time, Judy, was seated a few feet away, pregnant with the couple's fourth child. She fainted. Surrounded by a thick and shuffling crowd, she somehow rose to her feet and was taken by gurney to a waiting ambulance.
A cold Nevada night, a prize fight, thousands of first-hand witnesses, millions of pay-per-view watchers, a motorized fan, a paraglider, a mad rush, a brandished cell phone, a light-headed pregnant woman and a scene that delayed the bout for 21 minutes. In a sport with a rich history of outlandish spectacle, the Fan Man Fight, the second of three epic battles between Holyfield and Bowe, was a worthy challenger to the crown.
Order was restored that night. For the three main principles involved, however, their lives assumed a level of madness over the next 20 years. Two fighters lost their way and their fortune, and a daredevil lost a whole lot more.
* * *
The largest single-family home in Georgia sits on 105 acres, 19 miles south of downtown Atlanta. It's just shy of 50,000 square feet; the White House, by comparison, is 55,000 square feet. The Georgia mansion rises from street level like a cement phoenix. A cast-iron gate hugs the property. There's a security booth at the entrance. Sitting above both sides of the front gate are concrete lions, symbols of courage. Below is a pair of plaques with Biblical sayings. One is 1 Kings 8:29, which reads in part:
"That thine eyes may be open toward this house day and night, even toward the place of which thou hast said, my name shall be there."
The home is called Villa Vittoriosa -- "The Victory." It has 12 bedrooms and 21 bathrooms. The outdoor swimming pool holds 365,000 gallons, one of the largest private pools in the country. There's an indoor pool, too, for the four months when temperatures dip in Georgia.
There's a nine-car garage, a two-lane bowling alley, five dens, three kitchens. The master suite is 3,500 square feet, the size of many normal-sized entire homes. The main office has exquisite mahogany carvings, the foyer a pair of winding marble staircases. A home-schooling center comes complete with a bathroom and a kitchenette, handy at snack time for the kiddies.
That's just the main house. About 100 yards away is a converted seven-stall barn, and nearby is a guesthouse. That's only 4,000 square feet.
The property is officially on State Road 279, but on Jan. 15, 1998, four years after the home was finished and five years after the Fan Man Fight, the county honored the homeowner, who happened to be a local icon, and so Evander Holyfield Highway was dedicated.
It's particularly cruel how Evander Holyfield -- the four-time heavyweight champ who pummeled Mike Tyson twice, as well as Larry Holmes and George Foreman, among others -- no longer lives on the street that bears his name. The real estate crash, which hit Atlanta's heavyweight hard, now has its whale. Villa Vittoriosa was once worth $20 million with all of its furnishings. It's now in foreclosure and scheduled to be auctioned by JP Morgan Chase on Nov. 11, with the opening bid set at $2.5 million.
"We've got a lot of interest," claims realtor Jackie Campbell, about a 108-room mansion on steroids that listed for $8.5 million and sat six months on the market this year. "It just has to find the right buyer."
That discriminating buyer will live a block from a half-abandoned strip mall and a mile from a gritty corner filled with greasy fast-food joints. He or she must pay steep annual property taxes ($153,000 in 2012), monthly electric bills that run deep into the thousands on average, and maintenance costs -- all told, upwards of $1 million a year. One interested person isn't ready to bid; he's running short on funds at the moment, but he's convinced he'll get the keys someday, somehow.
"I'm going to get my house back," Holyfield says lustfully. "Not one time did I ever think I ever lost it."
He's slicing strawberries in the kitchen of another house, not far away, in a subdivision where homes sell for $140,000. He bought this home for the mother of one of his 12 kids (the oldest is 29, youngest is eight). Holyfield downsized to an Atlanta condo after his eviction. He's wearing a snug blue Nike T-shirt that you could bounce a quarter off -- that's how ripped Holyfield is at 51. Even as a grandfather, Holyfield looks like he can still whip plenty ass, although probably not Vitaly Klitschko's.
Every July 4 at Vittoriosa, Holyfield would throw an outdoor barbeque that attracted hundreds. The backyard fireworks could be seen from the airport. Other Holyfield galas drew the Atlanta elite, from the old guard of the Civil Rights Era to various Falcons and Braves, all mixing with common folk from Holyfield's church, World Changers.
Speaking softly, he says of when he was evicted last year, "It was the lowest point of my life." For him, the house was more than an ego blast and a place to throw a party. It united him with his kids. They all lived there at one point, along with some of their mothers, an arrangement that worked for a man who refuses to apologize for so many little Holyfields.
"Even when I was a kid, I knew I would have a lot of kids, because I thought that would make the greatest family," Holyfield says. "My momma had nine kids. My grandmomma was sad because she only had two kids, but her momma had 23. When you have many kids, it's a wonderful thing. One day, you'll always have someone to take care of you."
Holyfield is involved in their lives, as best he can be. In an hour, he'll head to Morehouse College with a daughter who attends Spelman College, to watch a football game. One son, Elijah, is a high school sophomore and top football recruit who's on the radar of Michigan and Georgia. Another son, Evan, is training to be a boxer.
"I would've rather had all of them with one mother," he says. "But I had these kids by choice."
He was often an absent father, but a father nonetheless. Once, while training in Houston, Holyfield got word that one of his sons fell into trouble at school. Friends say Holyfield broke camp, flew home to Atlanta, gave the boy what for, then returned to Houston.
But what about the expense of so many kids? Food, school, college education, braces?
"I thought I would never run out of money. I thought each kid would have a million dollars. And I made money quick. But if you don't take care of the money, things happen."
Holyfield was married to three of the mothers. The divorces were hefty. The combined child support checks, $500,000 back when he could afford them, could cause a hernia. That area of the anatomy cost Holyfield a small fortune.
"Evander is a church-going man," said Buddy Davis, a local boxing guru who discovered Holyfield at age eight. "He never was into drugs and drinks very rarely -- but he loves women. That was his one vice. And he really loves his kids. Taking care of them was always his priority."
The root of Holyfield's financial problems went beyond the home. A product of Atlanta's underperforming public school system (rocked by a grade-changing scandal recently) whose mother had a sixth-grade education, he constantly dealt with complex money matters and advisors "who took advantage." There was always a business deal that Holyfield couldn't refuse, and it usually went like this: Someone proposed an idea, Holyfield put up the money, the project crashed, Holyfield lost millions.
Real Deal Records never produced a hit. When Hank Aaron scored big with a local dealership, Holyfield tried the car business. That was a lemon. "I shouldn't have done that," Holyfield said. A restaurant in Buckhead, the tony retail and dining hub of Atlanta, went belly up. "They got me," he said.
Holyfield invested with former major league slugger Cecil Fielder and Florida attorney Willie Gary to build a rival to Black Entertainment Television, a new network providing family and gospel programming. It bombed. At various times, Holyfield hawked his own grill (like George Foreman's, without the big sales or schtick), barbeque sauce and bottled water.
He also tithed 10 percent of his earnings to World Changers Church; do the math, for someone who made $20 million a fight in his prime. The pastor, Creflo Dollar, traveled by Lear jet. A hard puncher with a soft heart, Holyfield was known for numerous acts of random kindness. Everyone around Holyfield needed something.
"My momma said, 'A fire ain't never gonna go out if you keep putting wood into it.' She said, 'If you keep giving, they'll keep taking. They ain't never gonna stop, until you go broke. Then they stop asking.'"
With career earnings estimated at $250 million, the champ could cover his mistakes at first. He made $35 million alone on the Bite Fight with Mike Tyson. Then the purses began drying up as the expenses multiplied. This isn't unusual in boxing -- Ali, Louis, Frazier, Foreman, Tyson -- all had their pockets emptied. Holyfield was stubborn about the house, though. The accountant who told Holyfield to sell Vittoriosa, a few years before the bank seized it, was fired.
Holyfield says, "I wasn't a businessman, I'm a fighter." This much is true. Especially the fighting part, especially now. Holyfield doesn't appear staggered by life's left hooks. He's a hopeless optimist, something he inherited from his mother, Annie, who raised her children alone and tried to instill strength into her shy, obedient son.
* * *
In the Fan Man Fight, Holyfield was determined to exact revenge on Bowe. Holyfield had lost to Bowe a year earlier, his first defeat as a pro. He'd thought about retiring then, until his son Evander Jr. cried: "Daddy, you said we weren't supposed to quit." Holyfield gave three inches and 50 pounds to Bowe. He trained like a maniac for the second fight, a stark contrast to Bowe, who was notoriously lazy when it came to fitness. In the first three rounds, Holyfield took Bowe's best and figured Bowe was weary and had punched himself out.
"I didn't run," Holyfield said. "I hit him back. Don't nobody like someone who fights back."
Holyfield was slightly ahead when Fan Man landed, and he feared the 21-minute delay would allow Bowe time to recover. But Holyfield finished strong with body shots and furious combinations, taking the majority decision, barely.
Holyfield's fighting spirit is part of his appeal; the other is his folksy aura, one that's not contrived. Holyfield is likable, a people person even in his lowest moments. The day after his eviction, which was splashed all over the news, Holyfield kept a promise to the local Boys & Girls Club and made an appearance. He saw the stares and heard whispers and knew what they meant, but he stayed until every autograph request was satisfied and all the pictures were taken.
With creditors sniping, he hatched a plan to regain his house by selling his boxing memorabilia. The auction house and Holyfield argued over priceless items like his heavyweight belts and Olympic medal, and the issue went to court, then arbitration. A Canadian philanthropist named Yank Barry offered to help, a former music producer who teamed with Muhammad Ali in 1993 for globe-hopping humanitarian work. Ali's physical condition soon made travel difficult, so Holyfield became the replacement goodwill ambassador.
Global Village Champions Foundation claims to have supplied more than 900 million meals worldwide since the 1990s. Barry was once sentenced to six years in prison for extortion but says his life is now about helping those in need, such as Holyfield. Through Barry, Holyfield does earn a semi-steady income from speaking engagements and appearances, mostly overseas, where ex-champs are adored.
"Evander is wonderful," Barry said. "The love he's shown is incredible. As for his situation, he's not an exception to the rule. Lots of high-profile celebrities in the music industry and motion pictures have had money problems. Evander has a big heart, he puts up a sign that says 'Please, rip me off.' Evander didn't piss it away; he was abused. He's learning, though. And what we're going to see is the rebirth of Holyfield. The new Evander could be as big as Evander the fighter when it's done."
Besides charity work and weighing movie deals about his life, Holyfield is contemplating -- what else -- a return to the ring. But not just any return.
"Holyfield-Tyson III, the fight for hunger, with a portion going to the needy," said Barry, his excitement level rising. "They're two living icons. Mike is training again and looks great."
But Holyfield is 51 and Tyson is 47.
"How much more hurt is he going to get at 51 than 45?" Barry asks.
If one passion, boxing, can rescue another, the passion for a former house that he cannot let go, Holyfield is all for it. Where others see a lost cause, Holyfield can one day see himself sleeping inside his sweeping master bedroom again, holding the July barbeques again and getting that house again for his kids and grandkids. He sees another "Graceland." Because, beyond the belts, the fortunes won and lost, lives a boxer who rallied four times when others predicted he wouldn't do it the first time, against Bowe 20 years ago on a weird night in the desert.
"People feel sorry for me," he said. "I tell them, please don't. I got everything except the big house. They say they can't believe I'm still standing after all I've been through. I say, don't quit. If you quit, you can't stand no more."
* * *
Ask Riddick Bowe for a minute these days and he'll give you an hour. Two, if you need it.
"It's not like I got a job to go to," he says, playfully. Except he's serious. At 46, Bowe says he's never held a full-time gig besides boxing. His last meaningful fight was 17 years ago.
"What am I doing these days? I'm getting fat. I ain't gonna tell you how much I weigh, though. That's gonna cost you."
When Bowe laughs, his face opens, and you see innocence: The gentle, bloodhound eyes; the jawbone unspoiled by Everlast and especially the smile, wider than his belt size, which is considerable. Big Daddy, raised in a housing project, comes across as the least dangerous kid who ever left the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, although his 43-1 record with 33 knockouts might disagree.
About that only defeat: Bowe says it was handed to him not by Holyfield, a man he beat twice, but by some fool who flew into the ring.
"I was befuddled," Bowe said. "I didn't see it, didn't expect it, didn't know what to do. Then my wife faints and vanishes. I didn't want to fight anymore. I wanted to be where she was. To appease the public and my manager, who said I'd be labeled a quitter, I kept fighting, even though my mind wasn't totally on the fight."
The seventh round remains controversial, not just because of Fan Man. Mills Lane, the referee, immediately stopped the fight. Marc Ratner, the Nevada State Athletic Commission boss, rushed to the three judges with a firm order: "Put down where you are in the score. Now."
Chuck Giampa, one of the judges, said: "At first we jumped off our stools, not knowing if we were under attack. Then we scored that round from the time it resumed."
When the fight was over, the judges scored the fight exactly the same, in every round, except the seventh: One judge was for Holyfield. One was for Bowe. One was for a draw.
"If judges agree on nine of 12 rounds, that's good scoring," said Giampa. "We agreed on 11 of 12."
Well, that one round, given the circumstances, was a slippery one to score. And it swung the fight. The verdict was a one-point majority decision to Holyfield.
"If the judge who had it 10-10 in the seventh had scored it for Riddick, the fight would've been a draw and Riddick would've retained his title," said Ratner. "That round changed heavyweight history."
Two years later Bowe knocked out Holyfield in the rubber match to regain his belt. He reached his life's Mount Everest. He was 6-foot-5 with a long, sharp jab and good power with both hands. He was also affable, funny, goofy. He appeared on talk shows and made audiences roar with dead-on impersonations of Reagan and Ali (On request, Bowe performed his Ali recently and it remains sharp: "You seen Bowe? Tell him I want him. I'm the greatest of all tiiiiiime."). Money flowed by the millions. A pair of ugly fights with Andrew Golota followed and hinted at a decline. As Bowe envisioned big paydays with Lennox Lewis, who beat him for the gold in the Seoul Olympics, and maybe Tyson post-prison, his manager pulled him aside.
You're done, Rock Newman said. You've got a wife and kids and $20 million in the bank. Hang up your gloves. Leave this game with your marbles.
Bowe was 29 and, he felt, still in his prime. He was confused, angry. He and Newman don't speak anymore. Bowe has accused him of stealing money, something Newman denied (Bowe's lawsuit was dismissed). Newman says he was only looking out for Bowe in the long run.
"When Bowe and I departed he had no bills, no taxes due, owed no one a dime," Newman said. "He was good at fighting but he hated training. He always said, 'When I'm in camp, I belong to y'all. When I'm at home, don't ask me what I'm eating.' Bowe was a warrior in the ring. He just lacked the discipline needed to maintain that excellence. He lacked the kind of work ethic and integrity to commit himself to something and follow through. If he had Holyfield's or Marvin Hagler's work ethic, he'd be the greatest heavyweight after Ali. No doubt in my mind."
Bowe's life unraveled without boxing. He was at a personal crossroad, with no skills to tap into another career. He had nothing to do except spend money.
"After I retired, I can't tell you how many days I woke up crying," he said. "Part of me died because I listened to him. I figured he knew best so I left boxing alone."
A strange decision to join the Marine Corps reserves lasted 11 days. He argued often with Judy, who packed the kids and left him, then accused him of kidnapping them from North Carolina by knifepoint in his Lincoln Navigator. Bowe was arrested and is still stung by the ordeal. His anger is evident.
"All that was bullshit," he says. "She lied. She set me up. Her mother called me and told me to go get my wife and kids. I did what she said, drove down to get her. Judy was waiting when I got there. Along the way, she said the kids were hungry. I stop. She goes in and calls the police. Before this, I never had a prior, and never had one since. What does that tell you?"
At the trial, Bowe's legal team had experts who said Bowe suffered neurologically from the effects of boxing. He plea-bargained to a lesser charge and served 18 months. Judy (who refused comment) filed for divorce. She and the kids were tattooed on Bowe's upper back. He's no longer on speaking terms with any of them. He learned that Riddick Jr., his first child with Judy and the reason Bowe married her, was not his biological son. He returned to the ring in 2004 but, bloated and uninspired against a pair of no-names, generated no interest. A year later, he filed for bankruptcy.
Bowe says he gave 10 homes and spending money to family members; he's one of 13 kids. He owned a fleet of cars, including four Rolls Royces. His wife and kids flew first-class. He also went years with no income after retirement and during prison. Meanwhile, the bills piled up. All of the homes are gone, he says, except the one he lives in, just outside Washington, D.C. His brothers and sisters, they're gone, too. He doesn't speak to them, either.
"When I left them in New York to turn professional, I wish I'd kept moving," Bowe said. "I bought them places to live. They stole money from me, tremendous amounts of jewelry. My family asked for everything, gave me nothing and left me nothing. My family hurt me."
Bowe is remarried and lives with Terri ("she's my soulmate"), who sometimes acts as his manager, and their young daughter. He briefly tried a number of menial jobs, never sticking with any. Last summer he took a Greyhound to Iowa for truck-driving classes, then bolted after a few days without completing the course, citing homesickness.
Bowe landed a Muay Thai fight earlier this year that was sad and disastrous. Heavy and slow, he was knocked down five times, received a painful kick in the shin and the fight was called in the second round. Bowe staggered out of the ring, a few thousand bucks richer for his trouble.
"That was too rough for me," he said. "I had to retire again."
So Riddick Bowe's search for his second wind -- or is it his third? Fourth? -- continues. He worries about losing his house. He keeps looking for a job. Or maybe not. It's hard to tell.
"What can I do for a living?" he asks, shrugging. "I dunno. You know of anything? I need to get out of the house. I'm so bored I might have to make a comeback."
* * *
Before she took control of the local newspaper, Lee Revis ran a coffee shop in Valdez, Alaska, a port town where everyone's on a first-name basis. A speck on the map of the largest state, Valdez was unknown to most until a snoring captain on an oil ship caused an ecological disaster.
The only brown liquid the customers in the shop cared about was the java, always served with a side order of conversation. One man in particular, a loner, stood out from the regulars, she said. He seemed worldly and eventually rescued Valdez from the stone ages by helping it become more tech savvy with his small computer business.
That's all she or anyone else knew about James Miller until one day in the late 1990s, when talk somehow steered toward skydiving, he smiled and said: "You know, I did that."
"That fight they had in Vegas a while back? Where the guy landed in the ring? That was me."
"Oh, really? You?"
Over a steamy cup came the story of an odd life. He was raised Jarrett Miller (his middle name) in Tok, near the Canadian border, left soon for Las Vegas and became obsessed with human flying: parachuting, parasailing, paragliding. A free spirit, he pulled stunts without a clear reason. At first, he restricted his hobby to the desert, then hatched a crazy idea: crash a prizefight.
"He didn't really say why he did it," said Revis. "He thought it was fun, I guess."
Miller wanted to plop in the middle of the ring at Bowe-Holyfield, but with the overhead truss blocking his clearance, he settled for the edge. Had he waited eight years and tried this, his first major stunt might've been his last.
"After 9/11, people would've thought he was a terrorist," said Marc Ratner. "With increased security, you wonder if he would've been shot down, right out of the sky."
After receiving a beating by Bowe's people (Miller: "It was a heavyweight fight and I was the only guy who got knocked out"), he was hospitalized for his cuts, received a 10-day jail sentence and a fine of $4,000. He kept the stunts coming. The next year he interrupted a Raiders game in Los Angeles and was jailed; then a soccer game in England. Finally, in the spring of 1994 came his Mona Lisa: Taking Buckingham Palace by storm, or rather, paraglider.
This one didn't result in a wrist slap. Miller painted himself green and climbed onto the roof but was arrested immediately. He was charged with terrorism, interrogated relentlessly, held 42 days and then exiled, with the promise of heavy jail time if he ever snuck back into England.
Miller craved publicity, obviously, but his stunts didn't generate sympathy. Howie Long, the NFL Hall of Famer, said had Miller landed in the stands instead of onto the LA Coliseum field, Raider fans would've bloodied him. So Miller did a career 180-degree turn and moved to a remote Alaska town where the only flying creatures are bald eagles, which, unlike Miller, are revered in America.
The daredevil never left him. Revis often saw him paragliding on the outskirts of town, a solitary airborne man trying to relive his past. And then one day, he came into the coffee shop, pulled Revis aside with an exciting new plan.
"He was going to paraglide the Kremlin," she says. "Oh, yeah. He talked all about it and how he was going to do it. He was looking forward to it."
Well, if Tina Fey's Sarah Palin character was right, and you can see Russia from some parts of Alaska, Miller never quite made it that far. He soon developed serious heart issues and required two bypass surgeries. Limited by his health and troubled by medical bills, he left Valdez in early 2002 for Anchorage to be closer to family. There, he met a woman who became his girlfriend, but halfway through her pregnancy, he disappeared. A search and rescue party came up empty. The woman had a son and soon left Alaska for Virginia. She refused interview requests.
The Chugach National Forest cuts a rugged swath near the Kenai Peninsula, thick with Evergreens and mountains. It's favored by serious hikers only, and only during Alaska's brief summers. It's remote, with just 30 miles of backcountry trails. Chugach is uninhabited, although cabins are spaced 10 miles apart off the main trail. Sometime after Labor Day in 2002, Miller drove there on the only road, parked and went for a hike, carrying a nylon strap.
"You can get lost in there, and it'd be hard for someone to find you," said Revis. "That's probably why he picked that spot."
The next March, near the end of Alaska's notoriously harsh winters, three hikers came upon the body of a man hanging from a tree by a nylon rope wrapped around his neck. After seven months in the woods, the body was decomposing. Miller was 39.
"It's a shame what happened to him," Revis said.
When the big-money fights left New York for Las Vegas in the 1970s, Caesars Palace became the Yankee Stadium of boxing. Larry Holmes fought in that converted parking lot 14 times. Both of the Tommy Hearns vs. Sugar Ray Leonard fights were there. Marvin Hagler's brutal beating of Hearns in three rounds? Caesars. Ali lost his final title to Holmes at Caesars. The proximity to gambling and the return to outdoor fights, like the old days when fans came dressed in hats, proved irresistible.
In 1993, the MGM built an indoor arena and soon, the big fights relocated there and the Thomas & Mack Center. Outdoor fights are now rare, making it impossible to interrupt by paraglide, like 20 years ago. Meanwhile, Caesars turned that parking lot into paradise, the opposite of Joni Mitchell's classic verse in "Big Yellow Taxi."
Where the ring once sat is now a swimming pool as sweeping as the one at Villa Vittoriosa, surrounded by bikinis, testosterone and silicone. Which means, if you drop from the sky on that space now, you can still make a big splash.