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.
King is doing his best to gain control of unbeaten heavyweigh 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 ahead to bigger bouts.
If the WBC 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 working on the match.