In the 1950s, the idea that hated Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher would one day manage the archrival New York Giants was unthinkable. But it happened, and when Durocher won two pennants at the Polo Grounds, he was forgiven all his past sins.
Now there is a similar scenario in boxing. One of the hottest rivalries in the 1980s matched Sugar Ray Leonard against Thomas Hearns. As a subplot, there was the fierce competition in the corners between the Hearns' manager-trainer, Emanuel Steward, and Leonard's trainer, Angelo Dundee.
The thought that Steward would one day be advising Leonard seemed preposterous, but it is about to happen. Steward, recently dismissed by Hearns, has been offered a chance to help Leonard prepare for his Feb. 9 challenge of World Boxing Council super welterweight champion Terry Norris at Madison Square Garden in New York.
"Even though they were rivals, Ray and Emanuel have always had a good relationship," said Leonard's attorney-manager Mike Trainer.
"Emanuel has known Ray since his amateur days. He's also familiar with Norris, and he can help us in that respect. But the biggest thing is that Steward has a young welterweight named Oba Carr who idolizes Ray and wants a chance to spar with him. He'll get a chance to do that when we start training in Tampa before the Super Bowl."
Trainer said Steward should not come in conflict with Pepe Correa, who survived as Leonard's chief trainer after Dundee, Dave Jacobs and Janks Morton lost their jobs.
But Steward may have other ideas. "They want me to work with Ray for about 10 days," he said, "but I think once I get there, they may keep me around for the fight. I'm just not the kind of guy who can be an assistant. I have to run the whole show."
Name fighters frequently change trainers, particularly when they need a scapegoat after a galling loss.
Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, originally tutored by the late Cus D'Amato, who gave him his peek-a-boo style, was next trained by D'Amato disciple Kevin Rooney. But when Rooney grew too financially ambitious, he was fired in favor of Tyson's buddies, Jay Bright and Aaron Snowell.
Tyson's corner was blamed for his stupor-like performance in being knocked out by 43-1 underdog James "Buster" Douglas in Tokyo in February. Promoter Don King appointed Richie Giachetti, Larry Holmes' old taskmaster, to head Iron Mike's corner.
"We don't even talk about Tokyo," said Giachetti, preparing Tyson for his non-title bout with Alex Stewart in Atlantic City, N.J., tomorrow night. "That's Mike's past. Stewart is his future. Mike is only 24 and heading for bigger and brighter things.
"I'm not crazy enough to try and change his style. I just try to improve the weapons he has. In the Douglas fight, Mike got frustrated because he didn't take the guy out. A puncher looks to get out of trouble by punching. I've had Mike working on slipping and countering."
In his six-month relationship with Tyson, Giachetti has been amazed by the former champion's notoriety.
"Mike and I were in the same nightclub in New York with Evander Holyfield after he knocked out Douglas," Giachetti said. "No one recognized Holyfield, but everyone stopped to talk to Mike. I don't care if he's on the front page or back page, making good or bad news, he's the guy they all want to talk and write about."
Stewart also had the opportunity to change trainers when the respected Eddie Futch helped him get ready for Holyfield a year ago. Stewart was stopped in the eighth round.
"I've got a lot of respect for Eddie," Stewart told The Philadelphia Inquirer, "but in that fight it backfired. I was getting instructions from everyone -- Eddie and my regular trainer, Edwin Viruet. It got real chaotic. Eddie is very calm giving instructions and Edwin is very emotional. He makes more demands of you. I feel more comfortable with him."
King is doing his best to gain control of unbeaten heavyweight Razor Ruddock and International Boxing Federation welterweight champion Simon Brown. He has matched them on tomorrow's championship card against a pair of setups, but is looking down the road to bigger bouts.
If the World Boxing Council strips Holyfield of his crown, as threatened, Tyson and Ruddock, rated Nos. 1 and No. 2, would then fight next spring for the vacated title, and King would be in a "can't lose" situation.
Brown, who recently split with promoter Don Elbaum, faces a mandatory defense in January, probably against Glenwood Brown. King reportedly is already working on the match.
Promoter Gary Braverman has booked actors, rappers and boxers for a celebrity boxing event at the Taj Mahal, tomorrow afternoon as a prelude to the Tyson-Stewart fight.
A cruiserweight "title" fight pits Burt Young, of "Rocky" fame, against Bo Dietl, the co-star of "Goodfellas."
New York Post boxing writer Mike Marley, who fought as an amateur in college, tangles with Hearns. Other boxers expected to participate are Roberto Duran, Holmes and heavyweight hope Tommy Morrison.