There was some theater at today's weigh-in, though it went off without the expected appearance of Muhammad Ali.

Big John Tate, back in his hometown from his campaigns in South Africa, was greeted by scads of fans. After his weight was announced at 232, he raised his fists over his head to show off his upper structure, then took off a T-shirt inscribed. "Thank God, I'm a country boy," and tossed it away in the manner of the late Elvis Presley throwing a scarf to his fans. i

Mike Weaver dispensed with any covering over his muscular upper torso, as if to intimidate the fleshier Tate, the World Boxing Association champion who will defend his title for the first time Monday at 9 p.m. (WJLA-TV-7).

Weaver weighed 24 1/2 pounds fewer than Tate at 207 1/2 and stepped off the electronic scale to flex his muscles. That was a psychological mistake, because the 6-foot-4 Tate remained on the scale and towered over 6-1 Weaver.

The appealing aspect of this title bout among four that will be shown on television from three cities is that either Tate or Weaver will get the big-money shot against unretiring Ali this summer.

Weaver, wearing a Star of David medallion -- he said his pastor gave it to him -- recalled that in June he perforated Larry Holmes' eardrum with one punch and gave him double vision with another before the World Boxing Association champion rallied to knock him out in the 12th round.

Tate is unbeaten in 20 bouts, including victories in a WBA elimination tournament over Duane Bobick, and Kallie Knoetze and Gerrie Coetzee of South Africa. He knocked out Bobick in one round and Knoetze in eight.

Ali has decided Tate is slow afoot and lacking hand speed and a punch. But everyone agrees the 25-year-old has remarkable stamina, though his decision over Coetzee for the WBA title was his only 15-round test.

Tate has knocked out 16 opponents. Weaver has won 20 of 29 bouts, 13 on knockouts, but has been stopped five times.

Besides Holmes, such undistinguished opponents as Howard Smith, Billy Ryan, Larry Frazier and Bobick knocked out Weaver.

After losing a 12-round decision to Leroy Jones, who is challenging Holmes in Las Vegas Monday, Weaver won four bouts by knockouts before losing to Holmes. Since, Weaver has knocked out Harry Terrell and decisioned Scott LeDoux for the United States Boxing Association title.

Weaver tried to explain away his loss to Holmes by saying it was his first bout scheduled for 15 rounds. "We fought hard at a fast pace and we were both exhausted," Weaver said.

He added, "Tate's size doesn't matter because I've fought mostly guys over 225. Tate has to carry that 232 pounds for 51 rounds, and there's no way he can do that.

I can go 11 . . . 15 rounds now at a fast pace. I've hit my peak for Monday night. (Promoter Bob) Arum wants Tate to win, but Tate is not going to beat me. I'm not going to fight the same way I did against Holmes. g

"ali would rather fight Tate than fight me. Ali knows me, and the pressure I can put on him. I wouldn't want to fight Ali; he was my idol. He shouldn't come out of retirement.

"but I will fight him if he does, and I'll cry after I beat him."

For fans who like to see the big guys fight, there is also a light heavyweight title bout here. Marvin Johnson, a southpaw from Indianapolis, will defend his WBA championship against Eddie Gregory of New York. That bout will be televised at 8 p.m.

Johnson has won 24 of 27 bouts, 18 by knockouts. Gregory has won 35.

After Weaver's manager, Don Manuel, objected to appointment of Tate's personal physician as ringside doctor, WDA supervisor York Van Nixon told the Tennessee Athletic Commission, "You find someone else."