After years of being the bridesmaid, promoter Dan Goossen became the bride, when his man, James Toney won the IBF cruiserweight title with a pulsating 12-round decision over Vasilliy Jirov, in a fight that is the early leader for 2003's 'Fight of the Year'.
Yes, after all those years of playing the Buffalo Bills to the Dallas Cowboys, the Atlanta Braves to the New York Yankees and Susan Lucci to a host of actresses, Goossen finally found a fighter that pushed him over the top back into the big-time.
Prior to starting his own promotional company last year, Goossen-Tutor Promotions, he had served as the president of the now-defunct America Presents. Where he invested in fighters like David Tua and Hector Camacho Jr. that would come up short in their biggest fights. It was the story of his tenure at that company, where big investments yielded small returns.
In starting out on his own after his dismissal from America Presents he would start out relatively small getting a few dates on FoxSports, but the days of him giving out million dollar signing bonuses were long gone. He would have to sign lower level talent or talents that others had forgotten or discarded.
This is where James Toney comes into the equation. You all remember 'Lights Out', in the early 90's he was considered among the games best and most ferocious performers. He had wins against the likes of Michael Nunn, Merqui Sosa, Reggie Johnson, Tim Littles, Iran Barkley and Prince Charles Williams, among others. There wasn't a fighter he was afraid of and a fighter he would think of ducking. But after a decisive lost to Roy Jones in November of 1994, he would go into a downward spiral that would last well into the next century. You'd oftentimes see Toney at local fights around the Southern California region weighing up to 275 pounds- this from a man who once held titles at middleweight and super middleweight. It was just as shocking as it was sad. To see what was once a magnificient fighting machine, looking like a bloated parody of himself.
By 2002, with time running out on his career, he finally decided to get serious about boxing once again. While most of the boxing business had ditched Toney, Goossen still had faith that Toney could lift his company to a new level.
" I think the biggest thing was the even through his dark days, his dark side so to speak, his Darth Vader years," said Goossen, with a chuckle from his offices." is that you still saw ability in a big body. So whether he was 206, 226, or 186, it didn't matter, you still saw the talent there. And it was talent that was in a body of still a young man who just turned 34 and one that hadn't taken punishment with all the A-list names on his record.
" So I always knew it was just that the thing for James Toney to turn it around, that was him saying to himself and committing himself to putting the time into the gym and outside the ropes where the fights are won and lost no matter who you are."
And for this fight the commitment was there for the first time in literally, years. It's funny, although Toney was listed as a world ranked cruiserweight challenger, he hadn't actually made the 190-pound limit in quite awhile. In fact, it was about two years ago that he came into a bout at a robust 227 pounds. A far cry from the cruiserweight division.
But for his bout with the bruising Jirov, he gave a clinic on counter-punching and defense. And his precise punching would send a game Jirov to the canvas in the 12th and final round, a punctuation to a sparkling performance that had people remembering the James Toney of old.
" I gotta tell you, there's not a better fighter in the world," said Goossen." He doesn't have a weakness. If he's in tip-top shape, there is no other fighter that has his greatness in every attribute of his abilities. He's the best defensive fighter I've ever seen without running. He's the best jabber- did you see those jabs? I mean, it was like he had lead in his hands when he was hitting you. They reminded me of a heavy-handed George Foreman punches and jabs. Power-wise, combination-wise, pin-point-wise, accuracy-wise, I mean, he's deadly."
Perhaps, Goossen is doing some classic promoter hyperbole, but he can be excused. After years of falling short by investing in the likes of Camacho Jr. he finally has a horse he can ride to the finish line.
" I've been asked many times what the secret of the business is," Goossen explained." And I've always said the same answer: you gotta have a fighter than can win. And that's what got us off of it, I told James that and I told him that, nine, ten, months ago when we got together. He's what I needed and I was what he needed and we both had the faith and confidence in each other to get there.
" But James showed what it takes to be great and he said it after the fight,' I'll fight anybody, anywhere, at anytime' And if you look at his record, that's what he's done."
And make no doubt about it, this elevates Goossens fledgling company to a new plateau. No, they may not be at the same level as a Don King or a Top Rank Boxing, but he's at a higher plane than at anytime during his run at America Presents because now he's got a marketable commodity that the major networks will clamor for. It's very simple in todays game, having a fighter that can garner the attention of the networks and the huge licensing fee's they bring and the dates they have means you'll be in business for awhile. Goossen-Tutor, is now a player.
" It's what any major promoter needs to stay a major promoter or get back to being a major promoter," admits Goossen." You need a fighter that knows how to get his hand raised, you need a fighter that is exciting to speak to, you need a fighter that has the charisman to make the fans love you or hate you and James Toney epitomizes all of the above. He's got it all, I'm not saying this as a promoter but as a fan now. I sat home and watched this fight yesterday and I was cheering in that 12th round because I never heard ringside announcers ever going,'Ohh' and 'Ahh' throughout the 12 round commentary. It was more like they were getting hit with those punches and expressing the terror of the punches with their reactions so it was that type of fight.
" And that's why he was one of the biggest stars of the 90's, he gave the fans what they came to see. And that was somebody who gave it everything he had and he had a lot to give."
The future's bright for both Toney and his promoter, all it took was a fighter that could get to the finish line.
" I was 'o' for the last seven years," Goossen said with a laugh." I had that seven year itch." COMMENTARY ON THE COMMENTARY
Just what in the world was the HBO cast of Jim Lampley, Emanuel Steward and Harold Lederman watching? Throughout the broadcast it seemed that seem to focus on the agression of Jirov- who was steadily pressuring Toney and throwing a steady stream of punches- and ignoring the surgery that Toney was performing on the inside.
It was a textbook example of how to slip, block, deflect and roll with on-coming punches while throwing sharp and accurate punches in between. While Jirov was busier, Toney was much more effective.
It was almost comical to hear the announcers talk incessantly of how Jirov was controlling things or pushing the action and then for them to ignore the work that Toney was doing. If you saw the fight, you know which guy was glad that there wasn't a round 13.
As for Lederman having the fight scored a draw at 113-113. That may have been his worst scorecard since he had Muhammad Ali winning his third bout against Ken Norton.