Ask promoter Lou DiBella and he'll say that what happened was the dirty side of boxing -- that Don King stole light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud using a pile of cash as bait and screwed up his April 10 HBO "World Championship Boxing" card less than 48 hours before Wednesday's news conference at which Cloud's mandatory defense against former champ Glen Johnson was supposed to be announced.
King, of course, told a different story. In his version, yes, he signed Cloud, but that the fight wasn't going to happen anyway because Cloud has a left hamstring injury.
Regardless of the version you believe this much is clear: Cloud did sign with King even though he may have an existing promotional agreement with Richie Boy Promotions and he isn't going to face Johnson April 10 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla. That's where welterweight titlist Andre Berto defends his belt against former titleholder Carlos Quintana in the HBO main event.
With Cloud-Johnson off, DiBella worked through Monday night and into Tuesday to put together a strong replacement fight for the HBO co-feature: junior featherweight titlist Celestino Caballero moving up to featherweight to face Daud Yordan for a vacant interim belt that will make the winner the mandatory challenger for titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa.
DiBella, of course was not happy about what happened.
"I got a call at literally 10 at night [Monday] from a representative of King [Roy Langbord] saying King did a deal with the kid," DiBella told ESPN.com on Tuesday night from Miami, site of the Wednesday news conference. "I told him that Richie Boy Promotions was the kid's promoter of record and that I had made deal for the fight with Glen. [Langbord] said there were issues and that King did a deal with Cloud, but that King would talk to me about doing a deal for the fight. I already had a deal for the fight. So I'm sitting there -- I have a show on April 10, a press conference on Wednesday and a flight to Miami in 12 hours. What the [expletive] is going on here? I told [Langbord] to tell Don I have nothing to talk to him about.
"Ten minutes later I get a call back [from Langbord] saying Cloud is hurt. I was on the phone with his lawyer, with his manager and with his adviser. They said they had no idea about him being with King. They were in the blind about him doing a deal with King and to their knowledge he was healthy. He must have gotten hurt walking up the steps to King's mansion to sign that deal."
King said he simply did a straightforward business deal with a free-agent fighter.
"I don't know anything about any of that," King told ESPN.com when told of DiBella's version of events. "All I know is that the guy came to me five weeks ago and him and his manager [Jerry Attardi] told me they had no deal with anybody and they asked me to help and I said, 'OK.' We finalized the details. He signed with me and I didn't know nothing about any of this."
King said even if he and DiBella could work out a new deal, Cloud wasn't available to fight April 10 anyway because of the injury. Cloud won a title eliminator against former champ Julio Gonzalez in August 2008 and didn't fight again until winning the vacant belt against Clinton Woods a year later. Now, he's mired in another long layoff.
But King produced an e-mail dated March 2 from the IBF to King's office granting a medical waiver and an extension for the mandatory fight until May 28. It was based on a previous letter the IBF said it received from Dr. Allan Fields, who recommended that Cloud not run or weight train for at least six weeks.
"This guy is hurt. He can't even fight if he wanted to," King said. "I told Lou [through Langbord] I'd be happy to have him fight Glen, but he can't do it April 10. We'll jump through hoops to fight Glen Johnson. But we asked for a medical exception from the IBF, the IBF granted an exception. It's just a postponement of the fight. With or without me, Cloud wouldn't be able to fight on April 10. So he'll fight Glen Johnson as soon as the doctor clears him."
Once it was clear to DiBella that Cloud-Johnson was off, he went to Plan B: Caballero-Yordan.
"I had to make a decision in the middle of the night on whether I could save this fight and I didn't think it could, so I turned to the most meaningful thing I could do and something that would also work for HBO," DiBella said. "I was on the phone with Caballero's people and we were in touch with Yordan's people in Indonesia."
DiBella said he briefly pursued a match between welterweight titlist Vyacheslav Senchenko of Ukraine and Antwone Smith, a welterweight prospect DiBella promotes who is scheduled for the undercard.
"They got back to me quickly and they weren't interested in the fight in this time frame," DiBella said. "I had already locked in a doubleheader with the site and the promotional materials were done. So we made Caballero-Yordan overnight and changed everything."
Caballero (33-2, 23 KOs), 33, of Panama, has been one of the top fighters in the world for the past few years but struggled for attention from HBO.
Indonesia's Yordan (25-0, 19 KOs), 22, has twice fought in the United States, including when he faced Robert Guerrero in a junior lightweight fight on HBO last March. The fight was declared a no contest after Guerrero quit due to a cut over his eye caused by an accidental head butt. But Yordan looked formidable in his brief appearance.
DiBella said he is considering his legal options against King and Cloud (20-0, 18 KOs). He also said that when Al Bonani, Cloud's trainer who also worked for Richie Boy Promotions, left the company recently and returned to work for King, he had a feeling this might happen.
"There may be some lawsuits. I suffered damages," DiBella said. "I don't like litigating, but what went down was wrong and the way it went down was wrong."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.