When Dan Goossen telephoned, he would announce himself in a unique way. There was no “Hi, Tom” or “This is Dan.” Just . . .
One time, I told him that he sounded like a beached whale.
“The whale is a noble mammal,” Dan responded.
I liked Dan. His death this morning from complications caused by liver cancer came as a shock. It’s unsettling when someone you’ve known as a healthy vibrant person dies suddenly from natural causes. And that’s particularly true in Dan’s case since he was such a strong, physically imposing presence.
Larry Merchant once said, “I like boxing people, and I like being one of them.”
Dan was a boxing guy; one of ten children (eight boys and two girls). His father was a Los Angeles cop, who later became a private detective. In 1982, Dan and his siblings started Ten Goose Boxing (named for the ten Goossen children) to train and manage fighters.
“Our first gym was the backyard of my brother Greg’s house,” Dan later recalled. “We had a speed-bag and heavy-bag hanging from a tree. One of the ring posts was on top of what had once been home plate for our family whiffle-ball games. Every morning, I’d sweep leaves out of the ring.”
Eventually, Ten Goose received a waiver from the California State Athletic Commission that allowed it to simultaneously promote and manage fighters. In 1996, Dan and Mat Tinley (who had sold international television rights for Ten Goose) formed America Presents. In 2002, Dan and Ronald Tutor joined forces to form Goossen Tutor Promotions.
At one point, Goossen was also the promoter of record for Mike Tyson. But it was an unhappy experience.
“Signing Mike Tyson was the worst deal I ever made,” Dan told me over drinks one night at the Parker Meridien Hotel in New York. “I’ve had to become somewhat indifferent to Mike’s conduct in order to survive emotionally. And financially, it hasn’t been a very good deal either. We get a fixed sum for each fight. The problem is, we’re Mike’s promoter of record, but basically all we are is a salaried name entity. The deal doesn’t allow us to be promoters. We’re not part of the decision-making process. There are a lot of things I’d do differently if [we were] really his promoter, but, in truth, we’re not. There’s nothing worse than being a passenger in a car and getting lost when you know that, if you were driving, you’d get to your destination. I don’t like being relegated to the role of hanging up banners at press conferences. But the way the deal is structured, we aren’t the ones who are directing the athlete.”
Dan loved the sport and business of boxing and he loved the action. He never quite made it to the top rung. David Tua and Chris Arreola (two of his fighters) had heavyweight championshp fights but fell short of boxing’s ultimate prize. Andre Ward ascended to the number two slot on many pound-for-pound lists, but seemed to forget Dan’s role in getting him to where he was.
Now the remembrances are flowing in. One of them comes from Seth Abraham, who was the architect and master builder of HBO Sports.
In mid-2000 (Abraham’s last year at the network), he and Goossen had a heated disagreement that stemmed from Dan withholding what Seth felt was important information about the physical condition of one of Dan’s fighters who was scheduled to appear on HBO. When the two men met at Abraham’s office, Seth refused to shake hands, saying, “Let’s just do our business and not pretend.” Dan responded, “If you won’t shake my hand, we have no business to discuss.” Abraham said that he’d decide whether or not to shake hands after the meeting, and Goossen told him that the meeting was over.
“I was wrong,” Abraham said this morning as he reminisced about Goossen. “The only fights that HBO’s subscribers care about are the fights in the ring. So I made arrangements soon afterward to have coffee with Dan at The Palace Hotel. We met. I shook his hand. And as part of our conversation, I told him, ‘You know; Don King and I have had many heated disagreements over the years. But one thing Don understands is that, when you have bad news to deliver, you do it promptly and directly.”
Goossen thought for a moment and responded, “I know you’re being serious with me, because no one has ever compared me unfavorably with Don King before.”
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at email@example.com. His next book (Thomas Hauser on Boxing) will be published next month by the University of Arkansas Press.