Trying to analyze the up-and-down career of promoter Dan Goossen presents a challenge to those whose only recourse is to draw analogies … lots and lots of analogies.
To some, Goossen is like the hyperventilating Wall Street speculator dealing in sow-belly and frozen orange juice futures. He has made and lost fortunes, but, regardless of whether he is flush or busted at any given moment, you know he’ll be back on the floor of boxing’s stock exchange again, trading like crazy in the hope of making that really big score.
To others, Goossen is like the common cockroach, which survived the Ice Age while mighty dinosaurs perished from the earth. Not the most appealing of images, but then maybe there is a nobility in any creature’s refusal to be eradicated.
Not surprisingly, Goossen rejects the cockroach analogy. Then again, he doesn’t exactly equate himself with a dinosaur, reserving that designation for septuagenarian competitors Don King and Bob Arum.
“I’d prefer a parallel to the Buffalo Bills,” said Goossen, 59, referring to the 1990s AFC powerhouse that advanced to four consecutive Super Bowls at the conclusions of the 1990 through ’93 seasons, only to come up short each time in the NFL’s ultimate game. “They were always there, always close to the top, but never won the big one.”
During the America Presents stage of his meandering journey down boxing’s side roads and grand boulevards, Goossen often was depicted as the New York Yankees, spending millions on free agents and hotshot rookies as if he were a replication of deep-pocketed George Steinbrenner. But not only did America Presents miss wide right, as kicker Scott Norwood did in the closing seconds of a 20-19 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV, Goossen’s dreams of empire fell apart like a house of cards when it was discovered that he and partner Mat Tinley actually were a small-market franchise, overextending themselves on money from Tinley’s billionaire, cable-magnate uncle, Bill Daniels, the executors of whose estate turned off the cash spigot when Daniels passed away, after a long illness, on March 7, 2000, at the age of 79.
The Denver-based Daniels was a generous philanthropist, contributing to any number of charities in addition to indulging nephew Mat’s boxing jones, but he made no provisions in his will for his largess toward Tinley to extend beyond his own life span. When the bills began blowing in like a November blizzard over the Rocky Mountains, Goossen voluntarily bailed or was forced out later in 2000, depending on whose version of the story you choose to believe. Whatever the circumstances, America Presents ceased operations the following year when Tinley no longer could pay the freight and his stable of quality but disgruntled fighters began to drift away like the lyrics from that Dobie Gray song.
Tinley hasn’t been heard from since, but Goossen is still around, still making waves as president of Goossen Tutor Promotions. He is like the proverbial cat – See? Another analogy! – that, when tossed high in the air, somehow manages to land on its feet, or paws as the case might be.
If everything falls just right, as it almost did for his initial start-up operation, Ten Goose Boxing, and then for America Presents, the big Irish-American lug with the hearty laugh and gregarious nature could scoot up the charts as rapidly as did the latest Beatles song in the magical spring of 1964. It’d be like Scott Norwood nailing that field goal and being carried off the field on his teammates’ shoulders while peering into the camera and proclaiming, “I’m going to Disney World!”
Consider the possibilities:
—Chubby, bomb-throwing Chris Arreola (27-0, 24 KOs), a Goossen Tutor fighter, has at least a puncher’s chance to dethrone WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko (37-2, 36 KOs) in their Sept. 26 title bout at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
—Undersized but fast-handed Eddie Chambers (35-1, 18 KOs), who is co-promoted by Goossen Tutor (along with Rob Murray Jr.) and is coming off an impressive majority decision over previously undefeated Russian Alexander Dimitrenko in Berlin, just might be quick and elusive enough to shock IBF/WBO heavyweight titlist Wladimir Klitschko (53-3, 47) in a fight whose date and time has yet to be determined, although signs point to a Dec. 12 meeting in Germany.
Should Arreola and Chambers hit their respective lotteries, as Buster Douglas did against Mike Tyson in 1990 – and let’s not forget that all five of the defeats incurred by the Klitschko brothers came on stoppages – Goossen immediately becomes the heavyweight division’s premier power broker. He could have his new champions chart separate courses or pit them for the mostly undisputed title, although some allowances would have to be made for the WBA belt held by 7-foot Russian oaf Nikolai Valuev.
Oh, and don’t forget 41-year-old James Toney (71-6-3, 43 KOs), a world champion as a middleweight, super middleweight and cruiserweight, and Manuel Quezada (28-4, 18 KOs), who is rated No. 4 by the WBC. They’re heavyweights in the mix who both scrap under the Goossen Tutor promotional banner and could be factors at some point.
Goossen also holds paper on such quality fighters as middleweight Paul “The Punisher” Williams (37-1, 27 KOs) and super middleweight Andre Ward (19-0, 12 KOs), each of whom could gain admittance to the exclusive superstars club.
“We’re always knocking at the door,” Goossen said. “We’ve always been there, going back to the early days. We’ve been steady and consistent in building talent. I’m very proud of what we’ve done as a team throughout the years.”
So what happens if the dominoes begin to tumble and Goossen finds finally finds himself The Man?
“(The possibility of such success) won’t change me, but in the future please call me Mr. Goossen,” he said, laughingly, of the way the jigsaw puzzle is being fitted together. “Quite frankly, I haven’t thought too much about what might happen, but with victories – which I believe Chris and Eddie both can achieve – we would be in a very advantageous position. But I’ve been around too long to anticipate anything.”
Goossen has been on the cusp before. Ten Goose, the Sherman Oaks, Calif., mom-and-pop operation – actually more of a sibling act, as Goossen has seven brothers and two sisters who all pitched in to varying degrees – began modestly in the early 1980s in Sherman Oaks, Calif., with a backyard ring and several promising young prospects on which the fledgling company could build.
Foremost among them was Michael Nunn, a supremely gifted middleweight from Davenport, Iowa, who the Goossens saw as their express lane right to the big time. And Nunn, who did win the IBF middleweight title by beating Frank Tate in 1988 and held it through five defenses, might have completed the trip all the way up the mountain had he not began listening to other voices. The Goossens had Terry Norris for a while, too, and heavyweight knockout artist David Tua. But the breakthrough to boxing’s inner sanctum never quite happened.
“We thought we had our superstar when we signed Nunn in ’84,” Goossen recalled. “He beat Frank Tate (for the IBF 160-pound crown) in ’88 and we began to think we had the future of boxing, which Nunn probably should have been, but his career went south when he began hanging out with the wrong people, people who gave him bad advice and drove a wedge between him and us.
“The list goes on and on. We could have hit the jackpot with Tua vs. Lennox Lewis, but didn’t. With Terry Norris when we had him. We had a lot of really good fighters, like the Ruelas brothers (Gabriel and Rafael, both of whom went on to win world titles). But we never quite got all the way there.”
After Ten Goose’s goslings flew off in different directions, Dan caught on with Arum’s Top Rank operation, where he remained until he resigned in 1996 to become president of America Presents, whose founder and CEO, Tinley, figured he could spend his way to instant success with Uncle Bill footing much of the bill.
The piece d’resistance was when America Presents signed the United States’ only gold medalist at the Atlanta Olympics, Philadelphia’s David Reid, to a five-year contract that included a $1.5 million signing bonus. It was reported that, if Reid met all the provisions in his contract, he would earn as much as $14.4 million over the life of the deal, and potentially much more than that.
“He’s the best amateur to come out of the American Olympic program since Sugar Ray Leonard,” Tinley said at the time of the signing. “He’s good speed, talent and power.”
But Arum, whose five-year, $7 million offer to Reid didn’t come close to America Present’s package, questioned whether his new competitors were being financially prudent.
“The figures I’m hearing are insane,” Arum harrumphed when he lost out on Reid. “(America Presents) is going way, way out on a limb with this contract. It’s like these people don’t know the business.”
Reid fared reasonably well in the short term. He received an impressive $200,000 for his pro debut, a four-rounder against Sam Calderon that was televised by HBO on the undercard of the first pairing of Roy Jones Jr. and Montell Griffin and, after winning his first seven bouts, three of which were on HBO, Reid signed a multifight deal with the premium-cable giant on Feb. 4, 1998, that might have made him a multimillionaire had he fulfilled the promise Goossen and Tinley believed he had.
But a recurring ailment, a drooping left eyelid, stamped Reid as a medical risk, which might have prompted his handlers to move him more quickly than was advisable. Although Reid won the WBA super welterweight championship by outpointing Laurent Boudouani on March 6, 1999, and successfully defended the title twice, he was hammered unmercifully in his March 3, 2000, defense against Felix Trinidad, going to the canvas four times although he somehow managed to last all 12 rounds.
Reid won his next three bouts, albeit against third-tier opponents, before prematurely flaming out, as had Nunn, on a ninth-round TKO to journeyman Sam Hill on Nov. 11, 2001, in that noted boxing hotbed of Elizabeth, Ind.
“David Reid just woke up one day and was finished,” said former WBA lightweight champion Sean O’Grady, then a boxing analyst for Fox Sports Net.
And so, too, for all practical purposes, was America Presents. The company had expanded too fast, signing as many high-upside prospects and big names as it could, as if they were trading cards to be hoarded. Just when it was thought that there were no more headline-grabbing splashes for Goossen and Tinley to make, they signed Mike Tyson, who was coming off four months in jail for assaulting two middle-aged motorists in a chain-reaction fender-bender, to a megabucks contract.
“He’s still the most exciting fighter in the world today,” Goossen reasoned. “He’s still the most dangerous fighter in the world today. If you were to build a heavyweight from scratch, you’d build Mike Tyson.”
In 1985, maybe. But not in September 1999. This Tyson took large advances against future purses and, not surprisingly, declined to pay them back. America Presents’ investment in the rusted, disinterested Iron Mike was akin to throwing mounds of money into a bottomless pit.
It also didn’t help the situation that Goossen, falsely presuming that the gravy train of his new gig would keep on chugging, developed a fondness for five-star hotels, fine cuisine and chartered jets. At the time of his departure from the America Presents, most of the company’s fighters and employees had received checks that didn’t clear, or were promised and never delivered.
But while old fighters, like old soldiers, might fade away, promoters always seem to survive to fight another day. The America Presents debacle had scarcely been laid to rest when another money man, construction magnate Ronald Tutor, stepped forward with the capital for Goossen to launch another project.
“I grew up with Dan and the Goossens,” Tutor said. “We’ve very close friends.”
And, indeed, this time around the mistakes of the past seem to have been eliminated. Goossen is going back to his roots as it were, forsaking the flashy, high-risk moves for the steadier, incremental progress of a day laborer building something to last.
“We went after too many, too soon, too fast,” Goossen said of his America Presents misadventure. “I’ve always been one to build from the ground up and not try to buy your way to the top. I think it’s the wrong formula for success. That’s the way the New York Yankees do it. They always have the highest payroll in baseball by far, but how long as it been since they’ve won the World Series?
“I tried to tell Mat that maybe we ought to, you know, slow down, but when things took off we just sort of let it snowball. Maybe it shouldn’t have happened the way that it did, but what’s done is done.”
Ironically, Toney is the Goossen reclamation project that represents a link not only to the past, but maybe to the future.
Nunn had only recently left Ten Goose when he took on the mostly unknown Toney on May 10, 1991, in Davenport. Goossen was on hand, in a minor-league baseball stadium, for what figured to be another perfunctory victory by Nunn over another 20-1 underdog.
The script was followed for a while, Nunn winning handily on points, until Toney lived up to his “Lights Out” nickname by chilling the champion with a perfectly timed left hook in the 11th round.
“I’d be lying if I thought James, at that point, would go on to become a legendary fighter and a first-ballot lock for the (International Boxing) Hall of Fame,” Goossen said. “I did know he was a good, young fighter because back then Nunn was a tough man to beat. But James proved he had staying power, didn’t he? He just refused to go away.”
Like the common cockroach and, it now appears, Dan Goossen.