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

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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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Boxing Odds and Ends: A Travesty of a Heavyweight ‘Title Fight’ Jake Paul and More

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It’s official. On Wednesday, Feb. 22, a formal press conference was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, to announce the forthcoming fight between Mahmoud Charr, formerly known as Manuel Charr, and Kubrat Pulev. They will meet in Bulgaria’s capital city on March 30 at a 12,000-seat arena.

Charr vs Kubrat bears the imprimatur of a world heavyweight title fight (WBA version). Charr is considered the champion, notwithstanding the fact that others have held the title since he first laid claim to it more than six years ago.

The WBA, as we know, recognizes two champions in some weight classes, a “super” champion and a “regular” champion. The “super” designation was created in 2000. It was designed to segregate title-holders into levels of accomplishment. In theory, a “super” champion has made five successful defenses and is recognized as a world title-holder by at least one of the three other major sanctioning bodies. “Super” champions are allowed certain liberties with respect to mandatory title defenses.

The bifurcation was greeted with hoots of derision. The Panama-based WBA trivialized the sport.

Mahmoud Charr

Mahmoud Charr was born in Beirut but has resided in Germany since he was a little boy. He won the vacant title with a 12-round decision over unexceptional Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany.  It was a close fight. TSS ringside correspondent Phil Woolever had Ustinov winning 7 rounds to 5, but conceded that the verdict could not be called an injustice.

The title that Charr won was vacated by Ruslan Chagaev who won the belt from Fres Oquendo, lost it to Lucas Browne, and got it back by decree when Browne’s post-fight urine tests showed evidence of banned substances. But Chagaev never fought again. His fight with Browne was his last.

Charr’s first defense was to come against Fres Oquendo. Slated for March 23, 2019 in Cologne after being pushed back from September of the previous year, the match never came to fruition when Charr tested positive for two banned substances. Things get really muddled from here with Charr pushed to the sideline by legal battles complicated by Don King’s shenanigans. King arranged a fight in Florida between Charr and his fighter Trevor Bryan and succeeded in getting Bryan the WBA belt when Charr was unable to get a visa. The belt is vacant again after Bryan was knocked out by Daniel Dubois who, in turn, was knocked out by “super” champion Oleksandr Usyk.

There are more threads to this saga but let’s not go there. Suffice it to say that after defeating Ustinov, Charr was out of action for the next three-and-a-half years. He’s had only three fights since 2017 and to say that his opponents were men of low repute would be giving them the best of it. In his most recent assignment, in December of 2022, he scored a second-round stoppage over 46-year-old Swiss-Albanian slug Nuri Seferi. That brought his record to 34-4 (20). He has been stopped three times, most recently in 2015 when he was halted in five frames by future cruiserweight champion Maris Briedis.

Kubrat Pulev

Kubrat Pulev will have the home field advantage in Sofia. Charr will have youth on his side. He’s 39; Pulev is 42.

Pulev sports a 30-3 record. The losses came at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko (L KO 5), Anthony Joshua (L KO 9), and Derek Chisora (L SD 12). He last fought in December at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, CA, where he won a lopsided decision over Polish journeyman Andrzej Wawrzyk.

In a previous engagement here at the Hangar, a concert hall that seats a shade over 3,000, he TKOed Bogdan Dinu. That bout is remembered mostly for what happened after it ended. In an incident that went viral on social media, Pulev surprised Jennifer Ravalo, a self-styled journalist, with a kiss on the lips. That animated women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred and led to an 8-page spread in Playboy (of Ravalo, not Allred). The California State Athletic Commission fined and suspended Pulev and mandated that he undergo sexual harassment training. The suspension lasted 120 days.

The match between Charr and Pulev, says a blurb about it, is an “eagerly anticipated” clash between “two evergreen living legends.” We will let you provide the punchline, The winner is expected to fight Martin Bakole who was knocked out by Michael Hunter.

Jake Paul

Jake Paul, the enfant terrible of prizefighting, returns this Saturday on a card in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that will air on DAZN. Paul, an influencer who brought his big social media following with him when he took up fisticuffing, is coming off a first-round stoppage of Andre August, a no-name fighter from Texas. Saturday’s sacrificial lamb is a fellow from Dickinson, North Dakota (by way of Benicia, California) named Ryan Bourland.

Bourland, who is reportedly 35 years old but looks older, scored his signature win in 2018 when he avenged a previous defeat with a 10-round majority decision over Jose Hernandez. He has fought only one since then, TKOing a fighter with a losing record in a 6-rounder at a lodge on a remote Indian reservation in North Dakota. That improved his ledger to 17-2 (6 KOs).

Regarding Jake Paul, Thomas Hauser once wrote that he’s worked hard to become a better boxer and is “certainly better than a Golden Gloves novice.” There was a time when this reporter, perhaps naively, thought that Jake had the potential to become a legitimate top-15 cruiserweight, but his recent choice of opponents suggests that he is comfortable just spinning his wheels.

His bout with Bourland will play second fiddle to Amanda Serrano’s featherweight title defense against Germany’s Nina Meinke (18-3, 4 KOs). Although Amanda has a lot of mileage on her odometer, she is expected to have little difficulty with Meinke. In another bout of note, Puerto Rican campaigners Jonathan Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14 KOs) and Rene Santiago (12-3, 9 KOs) will meet in a 12-rounder with Gonzalez’s WBO light flyweight title at stake.

—-

Let’s conclude this write-up on an upbeat note. Hall of Fame boxing writer Bernard Fernandez, a frequent TSS contributor, informs us that his fifth and presumably final anthology is nearing completion with a likely release date of April or May. “Championship Rounds, Round 5” includes a foreword by Gerry Cooney and has drawn glowing reviews from the likes of Dave Kindred and Dr. Gordon Marino who both had an early peek at the manuscript. Kindred, a renowned sportswriter and author, was the subject of a 2021 piece on “60 Minutes.” Marino, a Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, has written extensively about boxing for the Wall Street Journal.

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Results from Orlando where Berlanga KOed McCrory in a Possible Prelude to Canelo

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Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom organization was at the Caribe Royale tonight, a non-gaming resort near Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Unbeaten super middleweights Edgar Berlanga and Padraig McCrory squared off in the main event.

The fight started slow, but it soon became apparent that McCrory, a 35-year-old father of three from Belfast, Northern Ireland, was a domestic-level fighter, notwithstanding his undefeated (18-0) record. Berlanga, whose last five fights had gone the distance, roughed him up with some dirty tactics before taking him out in the sixth round with a crunching right hand that sent the Irishman face-first to the canvas. As McCrory pulled himself upright on rubbery legs, the towel flew in from his corner. The official time was 2:44.

As well-documented, Berlanga opened his pro career with 16 consecutive first-round knockouts. Nonetheless, he was let go by Top Rank in what purportedly was an amicable divorce. This was his second fight under the Matchroom banner. Eddie Hearn signed him with an eye on scoring a big-money match with Canelo Alvarez. The red-headed Mexican superstar is committed to returning to the ring in May on Cinco de Mayo weekend in Las Vegas, but hasn’t yet locked in an opponent.

If Berlanga gets the nod, he would be a heavy underdog, but the Mexico vs. Puerto Rico angle (coupled with Berlanga’s new-found reputation as a dirty fighter) would make it an easy sell.

Co-Feature

In only his third professional fight, Cuban defector Andy Cruz was bumped into the co-feature. That was in recognition of his amateur pedigree. Among his accomplishments, he was 4-0 vs. Keyshawn Davis with the last win coming in the gold medal round of the Tokyo Olympics.

Cruz, 28, was expected to win as he pleased against his Mexican opponent, Bryan Zamarripa, and he did win all 10 rounds on all three scorecards, but in common with many great Cuban amateurs, he seemed to lack something in the power department. Zamarripa was 14-2 heading in.

Other Bouts of Note

In a 12-round welterweight contest that was devoid of drama, Uzbekistan native Shakhram Giyasov, an Olympic silver medalist who has lost precious few rounds as a pro, won a lopsided technical decision over well-recycled 34-year-old Mexican Pablo Cesar Cano.

Giyasov (15-0, 9 KOs) sent Cano (35-9-1) to the canvas in the third round with a body punch. At the end of round 11, as their feet were tangled, he pushed Cano to the canvas and the Mexican ostensibly suffered a broken ankle when he fell. That sent the bout to the scorecards where the decision (109-99 x3) was a formality. With the victory, Giyasov earned a shot at WBA belt-holder Eimantas Stanionis.

The 12-round bantamweight match between Antonio Vargas and Jonathan Rodriguez, two fighters of Puerto Rican descent, was framed as a WBA bantamweight title eliminator. Rodriguez, the underdog, floored Vargas in the opening stanza. He had scored a stunning first-round knockout of 27-1 Khalid Yafai in his previous start and it appeared that another upset was brewing. But the match quickly turned one-sided in favor of Vargas who put Rodriguez on the canvas in the very next frame (and had two points deducted for hitting him after the bell) and then put him down again at the end of round seven with a sweeping left hook after which Rodriguez’s corner properly pulled him out.

Vargas, a 2016 Olympian who had home field advantage in Florida, improved to 18-1 (10 KOs) and became the mandatory opponent for Takuma Inoue who won earlier today in Tokyo. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s Rodriguez declined to 17-2-1.

The opening bout on the TV portion of the card was a 10-round flyweight affair that looked like a runaway for showboating Yankiel Rivera until gritty Andy Dominguez made things interesting.

Rivera, who improved to 5-0 (2), was Puerto Rico’s lone representative in the Tokyo Olympics. In Mexico-born Andy Dominguez, he was fighting a former three-time New York City Golden Gloves champion who was also unbeaten (10-0 heading in). Rivera dominated the match but was caught napping in round nine and Dominguez, although all busted-up, hurt him and almost put him down. That was most lopsided round of the fight, but also the only round that Dominguez won in the eyes of the judges.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom

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Junto Nakatani Turns in Another Masterclass on Saturday’s Tripleheader in Tokyo

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In a rather odd juxtaposition, several of boxing’s best little men were on display today at Japan’s National Sumo Arena in Tokyo. The best of the lot, Junto Nakatani, improved to 27-0 (20 KOs) while tearing away the WBC world bantamweight title from Tijuana’s Alexandro Santiago (28-4-5) who was making the first defense of the title he won in Las Vegas in May when he upset Nonito Donaire.

It was a one-sided beatdown. Nakatani, who had a 5-inch height advantage, won every round before ending the contest in the sixth. The end came at the 1:12 mark when Nakatani terminated the affair with his second knockdown. The first came earlier in the round, the result of a straight left hand. The finisher was a big right hook.

With the victory, Nakatani became a world title-holder in a third weight class. He’s an outstanding talent, worthy of pound-for-pound consideration, and would be favored in a unification fight with Takuma Inoue.

Inoue, the younger brother of pound-for-pound king Naoya “Monster” Inoue, did his part to bring the match to fruition with a ninth-round stoppage of Filipino veteran Jerwin Ancajas in the main event. Inoue (19-1, 5 KOs) was making the first defense of the WBA diadem he won with a wide decision over Venezuela’s mildewed Liborio Solis. That title was conveniently vacated by Takuma’s renowned brother.

This figured to be the most competitive match on the card and Ancajas (34-4-2) had his moments before Inoue ended the contest at the 0:44 mark of round nine with a four-punch combination climaxed by a shot to the liver. Heading in, Ancajas, who had a long title reign at 115, was 9-2-1 in world title fights and hadn’t previously been stopped.

In the first of the three title fights, 29-year-old Kosei Tanaka became a four-weight belt-holder in record time with a unanimous decision over Mexicali’s stubborn but out-classed Christian Bacasegua “Rocky” Rangel. At stake was the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title.

Tanaka, who previously held belts at 105, 108, and 112, started slow but the outcome was never in doubt after he knocked “Rocky” to the canvas in the eighth frame. The judges had it 119-108, 117-110, and 116-111. With the victory, Tanaka improved to 20-1 (11). In his only defeat, he was stopped by countryman Kazuto Ioka. He hunkers for a rematch but, if it happens, he might wish that it hadn’t. Ioka is long in the tooth – he turns 35 next month – but is very good and shows no signs of slowing down. Rangel (22-5-2) had won nine straight heading in, but against questionable opposition and was making his first start outside Mexico.

The Teiken Promotions card was presented in association with Top Rank and aired in the U.S. on ESPN+.

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