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Groundswell Builds to Send the Late Dan Goossen Into the Boxing Hall of Fame

Bernard Fernandez

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Groundswell Builds to Send the Late Dan Goossen Into the Boxing Hall of Fame

In New Orleans, some funerals are never a cause for tearful mourning. The life of the recently departed is celebrated with something called a Second Line, with smiling friends and relatives dancing toward the cemetery to the beat of a jazzy brass band at the front of the festive procession.

The late Dan Goossen wasn’t a New Orleanian, but you’d have to figure boxing’s most cheerful promoter and fun-lovingest guy would have appreciated just such a sendoff. Dan the Man was, in the words of younger brother and noted trainer Joe Goossen, “a gregarious guy, a pleasant guy with a lot of swag. He was larger-than-life even to me, and I’m his brother.”

Dan Goossen was four days shy of his 65th birthday when he died of complications from liver cancer in the early morning hours of Sept. 29, 2014. Now, with the five-year anniversary of his passing fast approaching, Goossen’s ardent supporters, with legendarily upbeat publicist Fred Sternburg as the chief drum-beater, are mounting a grassroots campaign to gain the fight game’s most happy fella enshrinement in the International Boxing Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020. Sternburg worked closely with Goossen when both were with now-defunct America Presents from 1998 to 2002, a professional pairing of jokesters to rival Abbott and Costello.

If Team Dan is successful, and there is mounting evidence that it might be, it would be almost appropriate for the IBHOF organizers to bring the Olympia Brass Band up from the Big Easy to sashay along the parade route in Canastota, N.Y., just prior to the June 14 induction ceremony. If there was anything that Dan Goossen enjoyed as much as promoting world championship fights and fighters, it was making sure that a good time was had by all, including media members for whom he organized low-intensity, high-frolic softball and basketball games a couple of days before his events.

“It (induction into the IBHOF) should have happened when he was alive and able to experience and enjoy it,” said Tom Brown, one of Dan’s brothers-in-law and the president of TGB Promotions, an obvious outgrowth of Ten Goose Boxing, the California-based, family-stocked promotional company that Dan began as a vague notion in 1979 before it became a reality in 1982. “To me, he’s been a Hall of Famer for a long time. He definitely left his mark on the boxing business. Name some of the top fighters of his time and Dan was involved with many of them. He promoted Ray Mancini’s last fight, against Greg Haugen. Roy Jones was on the undercard that night. You can go on and on. And the job he did with James Toney, late in Toney’s career, was phenomenal. James was thought to be mostly done when Dan signed him. Same thing with Glen Johnson. Both became Fighters of the Year after everyone had pretty much written them off.”

Not that every Goossen relationship with fighters ended on a cheery note. There was the unfortunate breakup with Ten Goose’s first superstar, middleweight champion Michael Nunn, which came as close as anything to wiping the near-constant smile from Dan’s face. Goossen had moved on to the presidency of America Presents when he became embroiled in a dispute with Bernard Hopkins, and it was more of the same at Goossen Tutor Promotions when Andre Ward, one of Dan’s two Olympic gold medalists (the other being David Reid), left after a similar falling-out.

In a Dec. 10, 1999, story I authored for the Philadelphia Daily News, Dan admitted to frustration at his occasional inability to satisfy the demands of fighters who, after achieving stardom, were insistent on squeezing out every last perk that went with that status.

“One of the biggest disappoints in my 20 years in boxing is Bernard Hopkins,” he said. “He’s right up there with Michael Nunn. I always felt Michael Nunn had the ability to be one of the greatest fighters ever, and I had that same feeling about Bernard. But Nunn never achieved greatness, based upon his own decisions, and it’s too late for him now. With Hopkins, I wanted to have a good relationship with the guy and to enjoy it, but, well, Bernard is Bernard. I’m not going to get in a war of words with Bernard Hopkins. He isn’t happy with what we did; we are.”

Joe Goossen correctly notes that virtually every promoter with a plaque hanging in Canastota has had a history of tension in dealing with fighters, but that the spats involving his brother stung more because they were never just about business. From the outset, those affiliations were uniformly personal, to the point of being almost familial.

“The reasons why those situations hit Dan so hard was because he really liked having relationships with guys that went a step beyond,” Joe said. “He always wanted his fighters to feel as if they were a part of our family, and vice versa. He put his heart and soul into it, every time.

“Look, we were raised by a father who was a homicide detective. My dad always said that loyalty and trust were so important. I think he imbued that into all of us kids. So, obviously, it hurts more when you do everything with the best intentions and somebody still turns on you. But Dan was not one to wallow in any sort of misery. He always maintained a positive attitude and if a relationship with a fighter did go south, he took satisfaction in the knowledge that he had done everything he could to keep that from happening. Dan was not one to get down on life because somebody else wasn’t holding up their end of the bargain.”

The group entry into boxing by the Goossen siblings – 10 in all, eight brothers and two sisters of feisty Irish heritage, hence the Ten Goose moniker – would make for an interesting story in any case, but even more so if you peer behind the curtain to get additional particulars. All of the Goossen kids were athletes of varying degrees of accomplishment, the most notable being Greg, now deceased, who was a good enough baseball player to make the major leagues as a catcher. Dan was almost there with him, skilled enough at hoops to allegedly wangle a training camp invitation from the Dallas Chaparrals of the old American Basketball Association.

“We had a huge living room that had to be 40 feet long,” Joe said of a space that was part sporting goods store, part recreational area and perpetual beehive of activity. “We did a little bit of everything in that room, including boxing. Our lives revolved around sports.”

Or at least they did until adulthood forced the Goossen siblings, with the exception of Greg, to stow most of their athletic dreams. Unable to make an ABA roster despite his nice jump shot and sharp elbows in the paint, Dan spent a decade as a clothing salesman, which explained his affinity for high fashion and deal-closing. Deep down inside, however, he retained a competitive itch that peddling pants and shirts could never satisfactorily scratch.

No wonder the Goossen kids – most of whom were then in their 20s, with a couple in their early 30s – found refuge in weekend barbecues and take-no-prisoners Wiffle ball games on a nice-sized piece of property owned by one of the brothers, Tom, in North Hollywood.

“We’d have Wiffle ball tournaments, on a regulation field we had laid out, and it was great,” Joe recalled. “Other people would come over and they loved it.”

One of the frequent visitors to those gatherings was an ex-fighter named L.C. Morgan, who lived in downtown Los Angeles. He asked Dan if it would be all right if he brought some inner-city kids over. Dan said sure, the more the merrier, and the following weekend Morgan pulled up in a van and “six or seven” preteens and teens spilled out. Morgan had brought some pads with him, which the kids and some of the Goossens took turns whacking with gloved fists. As Morgan readied to leave, he remarked to Dan that “wouldn’t it be great?” if the property also included a boxing ring. Dan could have dismissed it as idle conversation, but it got him to thinking.

When next Morgan and his crew showed up they were stunned to find a quickly erected and structurally sound outdoor ring, a surprise so stirring to Morgan that he broke down in tears of joy. Some sparring sessions ensued and, well, things would never be quite the same for the Goossen clan.

“We strung up lights in the branches of a tree that hung over the ring so we could train guys at night,” Joe said, and the seed that was to blossom into Ten Goose Boxing was planted and began to take root. It was something straight out of an old Our Gang episode from the 1930s where Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla and the crew get together and proclaim “Let’s put on a show!,” except that a few years later that backyard show was getting rave reviews on a much grander scale.

“In 1981 we had a gardener from the neighborhood whose name was Nacho something-or-other,” Joe continued. “He was kind of a rough-looking guy and Dan convinced him to try boxing. He was our first `fighter,’ although he didn’t last long. We were recruiting anyone we could. A used-car salesman, Harry Kazanjian, was one of the first guys we actually got a fight for. Harry probably had eight fights for us. I still see him around sometimes.”

In relatively short order, Dan had graduated to staging cards at a country club in Reseda, Calif., which featured such legit fighters as Frankie Duarte and Randy Shields. The young Ruelas brothers, Gabriel and Rafael, were in the pipeline and in time would go on to become world champions.

But the real breakthrough was when Dan showed up at the 1984 Olympics in LA, where he met Bob Surkien, who had Nunn, an Olympic alternate with vast potential. “Dan somehow got Nunn, who was being recruited by Manny Steward, to come to our gym in September and, as they say, the rest is history,” Joe said.

“We weren’t one of the big players in boxing then, not at all. But we had Dan, who was the ultimate go-getter. When Nunn won the (IBF middleweight) title in 1988 – four years after we signed him – by knocking out Frank Tate, the guy that beat him out of the Olympic berth, Dan said, `Tate might have won the gold medal, but I got the gold nugget.’ And he was right. We turned that gold nugget into something really big.”

It also helped to buff and polish the Dan Goossen brand when, during a fight card in Chicago, Top Rank executive Akbar Muhammad was having difficulty striking a deal with a recalcitrant manager of a fighter TR founder Bob Arum hoped to sign. Muhammad asked Goossen inside the office where the negotiations had hit a snag, and less than five minutes later the two emerged, wearing wide grins. That magic touch led to a long and productive run with Top Rank for Dan, whose reputation as a closer was gathering momentum.

By the time he took ill, Dan Goossen had worked with, in addition to bell cows Nunn, Reid and Toney, such notables as Hall of Famers Mike Tyson and Terry Norris, David Tua, Paul Williams, Joel Casamayor and Lance Whitaker. He also promoted two of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s bouts after “Money’s” split with Top Rank.

As promotional resumes go, Goossen’s would seem to pass any eye test for entry into the exclusive IBHOF club. If his name appears on my ballot, I’d give it a check mark. And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be the only voter to do so.

It does make you wonder, though. What if L.C. Morgan hadn’t happened along, opened his mouth and got an intrigued Dan to construct that ring? What if all that open space had just continued to be used for neighborhood Wiffle ball games?

There’s no way of knowing for sure, but my guess is that Dan Goossen would have gone on to become the first commissioner of a pro Wiffle ball league and first inductee into the Wiffle Ball Hall of Fame that didn’t exist then and still doesn’t.

So much pulsating energy had to be channeled into something, right?

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Press Release: The BWAA Names Floyd Mayweather Jr the Fighter of the Decade

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Floyd Mayweather was the most dominant fighter over the last decade, and that supremacy has been rewarded by the Boxing Writers Association of America as the first Joe Louis Fighter of the Decade recipient by going 10-0 (2 KOs) through 2010-2019.

Mayweather (50-0, 27 knockouts) beat out Canelo Alvarez and Manny Pacquiao for the honor, two fighters he defeated in the last 10 years. The list of nominees also included Andre Ward and Wladimir Klitschko.

In addition to Alvarez and Pacquiao, Mayweather defeated Shane Mosley, Victor Ortiz, Robert Guerrero, Miguel Cotto, Marcos Maidana (twice), Andre Berto and UFC star Conor McGregor, in a fight “Money” hardly trained for. That’s one current Hall of Famer (Mosley), and three future Hall of Famers (Pacquiao, Cotto and Alvarez).

“Thank you to the Boxing Writers Association of America for voting me Fighter of the Decade,” Mayweather said in a statement. “I am honored to be recognized by the media who covered my career throughout its’ many decades.

“Boxing has been a part of my life since I was two years old and I dedicated my life to it and gave it my all. I trained hard, showed up for every one of my fights and did my job successfully each and every time. To retire undefeated and achieve what I did in the sport is not only a gift to myself, but to the fans and most importantly, my team and family. I certainly didn’t do it alone and I appreciate anyone who played a part in it.

“Hard work and dedication, something I did for my entire career. I am grateful and humbled by this honor. Thank you so very much.”

Alvarez was Mayweather’s biggest threat in the voting.

In 2015, Mayweather beat Pacquiao by scores of 118-110 and 116-112 (2). In 2013, he outpointed BWAA 2019 Fighter of the Year Alvarez.

It’s why the BWAA has chosen Floyd Mayweather Jr., the only two-time BWAA Fighter of the Year in the 2010s (2013 and 2015), as the Joe Louis Fighter of the Decade.

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Tonight’s ‘ShoBox’ Telecast is Another Milestone for the Long-Running Series

Arne K. Lang

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ShoBox: The New Generation hits another milestone tonight. The long running, late night boxing series will air its 250th episode. The Hall of Fame broadcasting team of Barry Tompkins and Steve Farhood, assisted by analyst Raul Marquez, will call the action from the WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa (near Sioux City; 77 miles north of Omaha).

Partly because of its time slot (it’s tape-delayed for viewers outside the eastern time zone; meaning that everyone gets it at 10 pm) ShoBox doesn’t draw big ratings. But it’s must-see viewing for hard core fans and people in the industry.

The initial show in 2001 – when ShoBox aired late Saturday afternoons – featured two fighters with identical 17-0 records in the main event: Leonard Dorin and Martin O’Malley.

O’Malley, who hailed from the state of Washington where he was trained by former two-division world champion Greg Haugen, was in too deep but lasted nine rounds before the fight was stopped. Dorin, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist for Romania, then based in Montreal, went on to win the WBC 140-pound title, making him the first what are now reportedly 81 ShoBox alumni to have won a world title. (That’s Dorin on the right pictured with the late Arturo Gatti who took the title from him.)

Years from now, when the history of ShoBox is written, historians will note the synergy between it and Native American casinos. One wonders if the show would have lasted as long if not for the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the 1988 federal law that legalized gambling on tribal lands, opening up a new horizon for boxing promoters. There are now full-fledged Native American casinos (i.e., with table games and slots) in 28 states. Many are off in the boondocks, a good distance from a major airport, and this is where ShoBox has frequently set up shop. (Don’t get into a U.S. geography trivia contest with any of the longtime members of the ShoBox gang.)

Over the years the #1 destination for ShoBox has been the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, California (a cowboy town in California wine country), which has hosted 36 shows. In recent years, the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Oklahoma, has been a popular destination but that relationship, like that with Chumash, appears to have run its course.

Tonight’s ShoBox show is the eighth at WinnaVegas. Looking back, the most interesting card was the July 20, 2018 card that marked the ShoBox debut of Jaron “Boots” Ennis. Two rising Chinese fighters, light heavyweight Fanlong Meng and jumbo-sized heavyweight Zhilei Zang, appeared in off-TV bouts, and there was a zesty 8-round encounter between undefeated lightweights Thomas Mattice and Zhora Hamazaryan, a bout unfortunately marred by a horrendous decision. (The BWAA took the unprecedented step of publicly shaming the two Omaha judges that scored the bout for Mattice; the rematch produced a draw.)

A match-up of undefeated fighters has become a ShoBox staple. Tonight’s show was to feature a bout between undefeated super lightweights Shohjahon Ergashev (17-0, 15 KOs) and Keith “The Bounty” Hunter (11-0, 7 KOs) but Hunter’s management thought better of it and had him pull out.

The 28-year-old Ergashev, a southpaw from Uzbekistan, remains on the card. Filling in for Hunter is Adrian Estrella (29-4, 24 KOs), a fighter from Mexico who trains in Fort Worth.

In the other bouts on the TV portion of the card, Vladimir Shishkin (9-0, 6 KOs) opposes Ulises Sierra (15-0-2, 9 KOs) in a 10-round super middleweight affair and super flyweight Jarico O’Quinn (13-0-1, 8 KOs) meets Oscar Vasquez (15-2-1, 3 KOs).

The show has a distinct Detroit flavor. O’Quinn was born and raised in the Motor City. Ergashev and Shishkin, a Russian, train with other Eastern European fighters at the reconstituted Kronk Gym where the headmaster is Javan “Sugar” Hill. The nephew of the late Emanuel Steward, Hill has been in the news a lot lately as the new trainer of Tyson Fury.

On paper this is far from the strongest ShoBox card. Shishkin, who reportedly had more than 300 fights as an amateur, in particular is matched soft. His opponent has defeated only three fighters with winning records. But over the years, ShoBox has produced more than its share of upsets so yet another tonight wouldn’t be all that shocking.

The executive producer of ShoBox is Gordon Hall who has been there from the very inception. We here at The Sweet Science extend our congratulation to Mr. Hall and his cast and crew on the occasion of their 250th anniversary.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 81: Robert Garcia’s Boxing Academy, ‘J-Rock’ and More

David A. Avila

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Stacked cars block the long entrance to Robert Garcia Boxing Academy where many of the best prizefighters in the Southwest prepare.

It’s Wednesday afternoon and the first shift has arrived.

Just last weekend two RGBA-trained fighters Hector Tanajara Jr. and Joshua Franco returned to their native area San Antonio, Texas and showed off their fighting skills polished in the hills of Riverside, California. It’s a human factory of prizefighters of all sizes and ethnicities.

Trainer Robert Garcia, with help from his sons, runs the sizeable gym that includes three boxing rings like a choreographer. He doesn’t need charts or tablets, he simply directs the fighters to the ring and tells them the number of rounds they will be trading punches.

Gabriel Flores Jr. of Stockton is chosen to open up the sparring. He’s a 19-year-old speedy lightweight from Stockton, Calif. and so far has remained undefeated after 16 pro bouts.

First to spar with the Stockton fighter was Saul “Neno” Rodriguez, the slim power-punching super featherweight from Riverside. Early in his career he was trained by Garcia, first in Oxnard, then, when the Riverside operation was opened, he made the transition too. For more than two years Rodriguez had trained elsewhere but has returned to the Garcia machine. It’s hard to get better training.

Flores and Rodriguez sparred for multiple rounds of action that featured what each fighter does best. One is a counter-puncher and the other stalks and punishes. One utilizes speed and agility to offset attacks and the other pressures and pursues while looking for openings and mistakes.

It’s a perfect mesh of styles.

Next up was Luis Coria another lightweight with speed and aggressiveness like a wound-up top.

Coria was scheduled to fight Adam Lopez last November in Las Vegas, but when the main event featuring former WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez fell out due to the opponent weighing 10 pounds over the limit, Lopez was asked to step in. That left Coria without an opponent.

“He was well paid to step aside,” said Robert Garcia trainer and manager for Coria.

That night Lopez impressed the boxing world by flooring Valdez although eventually losing by stoppage. That could have been Coria. No problem, he will be fighting soon enough.

Coria sparred several rounds with Flores and both showed speed and a contrast in styles.

The gym always operates at crank level and somebody is always preparing for the next big fight. Coming up soon will be WBC and WBO super lightweight titlist Jose Carlos Ramirez who will be traveling to China to defend against Viktor Postol on Feb. 2.

Later in February, Mikey Garcia returns to the ring for the first time since last March. The former featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight, and super lightweight titlist is set to meet former super lightweight and welterweight titlist Jessie Vargas on Feb. 29, at Frisco, Texas.

Pick any season in the year and RGBA is always humming.

J-Rock

WBA, IBF and IBO super welterweight titlist Julian “J-Rock” Williams (27-1-1, 16 KOs) finally returns to the ring and makes his first defense against Jeison Rosario (19-1-1, 13 KOs) on Saturday Jan. 18, in Philadelphia. FOX will televise.

It’s homecoming for Williams who grabbed the title with a riveting win over former champion Jarrett Hurd in what I felt was the Fight of the Year in 2019. Both engaged in trench warfare and exhibited the beautiful art of inside fighting rarely seen or allowed by trigger-happy referees anxious to create space. Close-quarter fighting takes talent.

Fighting in front of friends and family can be pretty stressful. Philadelphia is a true fight town and it could be an added distraction for Philly boxer J Rock.

“I try to just block myself from the world. Especially with a hometown fight, people are pulling you 50 different ways, tickets, asking me stupid questions. It’s crazy, so I just try to block myself from the world,” said Williams about the upcoming fight with Rosario. “Rosario brings ambition to the table. I think he’s an ambitious kid. I don’t think it’s a difficult fight (for me), to be quite honest. I just think it’s a matter of being focused and on top of my game, and I think I’ll take care of him. I don’t think it’s difficult, though. He’s a decent fighter. We’re not going to make him out to be Ray Robinson.”

Top Rank in NY

If you are one of the many who wondered whatever happened to Puerto Rico’s Felix Verdejo here’s your chance to watch the former phenom in action as he meets Manuel Rey Rojas (18-3, 5 KOs) at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, NY. ESPN+ will stream the Top Rank card.

Verdejo (25-1, 16 KOs) fought once in 2019 and defeated cagey veteran Bryan Vasquez by decision last April in New York City. He remains a big draw but since turning pro nearly 10 years ago has failed to live up to expectations as the next Felix Trinidad. There’s only one “Tito” Trinidad.

Rumors abound when it comes to Verdejo who was supposedly involved in a motorcycle accident and other escapades. Life can get in the way. Here he is now 26 years old and looking to conjure up some of that old fervor he had as a teen.

Fights to Watch

Fri. Showtime 7 p.m. Shojahon Ergashev (17-0) vs Adrian Estrella (29-4).

Sat. ESPN 4 p.m. Eleider Alvarez (24-1) vs Michael Seals (24-2); Felix Verdejo (25-1) vs Manuel Rey Rojas (18-3).

Sat. FOX, 5 p.m. Julian Williams (27-1-1) vs Jeison Rosario (19-1-1); Chris Colbert (13-0) vs Jezzrel Corrales (23-3).

Photo: Eduardo Garcia, the Garcia family patriarch, is flanked by sons Robert and Mikey. Photo by Al Applerose.

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