It was hardly surprising to find Don King, who had been serving as promoter for welterweight champion Simon Brown, standing conspicuously behind Buddy McGirt in The Mirage ring in Las Vegas Saturday night. McGirt had just removed Brown's WBC crown with a masterful 12-round boxing exhibition.
No one moves quicker than King in forming new allegiances. At the memorable "Rumble in the Jungle" in Zaire in 1974, he arrived at the fight with heavyweight champion George Foreman and left the stadium with born-again heavyweight king Muhammad Ali.
King took little risk in matching Brown against McGirt. He not only gave McGirt, the challenger, more money ($650,000) than the champion, Brown ($500,000), but also signed him to a five-bout option.
It also was reported that King had pre-arranged a match between McGirt and unbeaten WBC junior-welterweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez for Madison Square Garden next spring.
The man taking all the risks was Brown, the Mount Airy fighter who, if he had listened to counsel, would not have put his title on the line Saturday night against a dangerous opponent.
Brown had any number of reasons to seek a postponement: 1) a cut eye two weeks before the fight; 2) a serious weight problem, and 3) a bad case of the flu.
Before he was hospitalized Saturday night in Las Vegas after his severe beating by McGirt, Brown said he weighed as much as 175 pounds when he started training for the defense of his 147-pound title.
The combination of the flu and a crash diet left him weak and dehydrated the night of the fight.
"It was the worst set of circumstances," said Brown's adviser, Maryland attorney James Cooks. "McGirt didn't beat the real Simon Brown. The fact that Simon lasted five rounds was a miracle. To go the 12-round limit was divine intervention."
Brown, who previously had postponed the McGirt match after injuring his hand in training last summer, did not want to request another delay despite his reported physical problems.
But yesterday he dismissed his trainer, Emile Griffith, the former welterweight and middleweight champion. Griffith not only was faulted for allowing Brown to balloon to 175, but also for not properly treating the fighter's cut eye.
Cooks also announced that henceforth Brown will campaign as a junior-middleweight (154 pounds), no longer being compelled to battle the scale.
Since turning professional in 1982, Brown constantly has changed managers and trainers. Griffith followed in the wake of Jose "Pepe" Correa and Teddy Atlas. Brown now manages himself after parting with attorney Charley Rosenbleet of Washington and fruit merchant Al Balboin of New Jersey.
Balboin and his partner, Don Elbaum, are suing Brown and Cooks for breach of contract and The Mirage Hotel for interference in their fighter's affairs. Their disputed contract with Brown expires next August.
Said Elbaum: "Simon first got suckered in signing with King and then stabbed in the back. The people advising him should have never allowed him to fight in that condition. The welfare of your fighter has to come first."
Elbaum also criticized King for encouraging Brown to abandon the International Boxing Federation title he had won last March by knocking out his close friend and former stablemate Maurice Blocker.
"Now he's got nothing," Elbaum said.
Brown could get a rematch with McGirt, if the new welterweight champion agrees to fight him at 154 pounds.
"No problem," said McGirt's veteran manager-trainer, Al Certo. "But we could make bigger money fighting Chavez or [former lightweight champion] Hector Camacho.
"Brown has made too many excuses for getting beat," Certo said. "He was trying to be the bogyman, stalking McGirt, but he didn't scare us. Buddy beat him at his own game, and knocked him on his butt.
"Who did Brown ever beat? Marlon Starling whipped him in 1985, and Tyrone Trice had him down [in 1988] before he ran out of gas.
"I've been trying to tell the public for years how good my fighter was," Certo said. "Now the whole world knows."