LAS VEGAS -- The mad, mad world of professional boxing added an incredibly bizarre twist last night at Caesars Palace.
Evander Holyfield, a 3-1 underdog, regained his heavyweight crown from Riddick Bowe despite a 21-minute interruption caused by a sky diver who crashed into the ring in the seventh round.
Several ringside spectators were hurt, and Bowe's pregnant wife, Judy, fainted and needed medical attention.
But the fight resumed in the chilly desert air, and ultimately, it was Bowe, who decisioned Holyfield here a year ago, who was left in shock.
Holyfield, who dominated the last half of the 12-round bout, won by majority vote. Judge Jerry Roth scored it 115-113 and Pat Jarman, 115-114 in the Georgian's favor. The third official, Chuck Giampa, scored it a 114-114 draw.
After commending Holyfield, Bowe requested a third fight, "Let's do it again, like Ali and Frazier in Manila," he said.
Holyfield, making good on his vow to wage a smarter fight in the rematch, said, "I beat the best big man in the world. I knew I couldn't make the same mistakes I made in the first fight."
With his courageous victory, Holyfield becomes only the fourth heavyweight champion in history to regain his title. Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali and little-known Tim Witherspoon were his predecessors.
At 217, Holyfield gave away 29 pounds to the taller Bowe. But it was Bowe, with a roll around his middle, who tired as the intensely fought battle continued.
Holyfield, 31, turned the fight in his favor in the fourth round when he staggered Bowe. He seemed in firm control before the unexpected interruption by the parachutist in Round 7.
The bizarre act was reminiscent of pilot Donald Kroner crashing into the upper deck of Memorial Stadium after an NFL playoff game between the Baltimore Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers in December 1976. No one was hurt at that time.
Holyfield, who received a warm reception, was the first to enter the ring, accompanied by his new adviser, rock star Hammer, and his new trainer, Emmanuel Steward, who replaced George Benton and Lou Duva after Holyfield's title loss.
Bowe showed respect for the weather, wearing a snow cap. Neiher fighter was eager to shed his robe.
Diminutive referee Mills Lane gave brief instructions and shouted, "Let's Get It On!"
Bowe took him literally. He came out smoking, stunning Holyfield with his first right hand. True to his word, Holyfield showed more movement in the opening minute, moving in and out while testing his jab.
A quick counter by Holyfield briefly stopped the stalking champion. But Bowe landed the harder punches in the opening round.
Holyfield drew a loud roar when he scored with an overhand right early in the second round, but Bowe used his weight advantage to bully Holyfield into the ropes.
The two then fought at close quarters in mid-ring. Bowe landed a left-right combination that made Holyfield retreat. But no telling blows were landed in the closing minute.
Bowe used his trip-hammer jab in round three, keeping his rival off balance. Holyfield fought back with light combinations. A four-punch volley only drew a smile from Bowe. Just before the bell, Bowe caught Holyfield with an overhand right and a sharp punch to the ribs.
The battle took a dramatic turn in the fourth round. Again, Bowe started fast and won most of the early exchanges.
But Holyfield decided to turn it into a war. Exchanging big rights, he shook the champion and then turned even more aggressive. He made Bowe give ground with a barrage of hard, clean shots.
Bowe, sporting a band of fat around his waistband, now appeared in trouble.
The bell sounded, but the referee was unable to stop the fighters who continued to brawl for at least 15 seconds as the crowd howled in approval. Finally, Steward jumped in the ring to pull Holyfield back to his corner.