A Farewell to
Promoter Dan Goossen
They say that the worst news is delivered in the dead of night before the sun can raise its fiery head and put up a proper fight. So this past Monday, for those of us on the west coast and beyond, it was doubly unfair to learn with those first rays of the delicate dawn that one of our favorite sons had departed to go towards a different light inhabiting a distant yet mysterious galaxy of wonders unknown. As such, it is with heavy heart that it must be reported that one of professional boxing’s biggest and most ubiquitous bright stars, promoter Dan Goossen has died at 64 years of age just a few days shy of his 65th birthday due to complications in what was later revealed to have been a very private fight with liver cancer.
It was on the morning of September 29, 2014 that the family of West Coast promoter and California boxing fixture Dan Goossen released a statement revealing that Mr. Goossen had succumbed to a short but hard fought battle with liver cancer.
Their statement made it clear that the silence that Mr. Goossen kept regarding his disease was well in keeping with his outsized personality and unwavering resoluteness in doing things his way - no matter whom or what dared stand in his path. In short, though ultimately this became the one battle that the big man could not win, he did it on his own terms:
GOOSSEN FAMILY STATEMENT: “The sudden news of his diagnosis was very much a private matter and his final days were spent surrounded by his family and closest friends. Sadness is difficult to escape as we grieve his passing, however we are filled with pride by the fact that Dan Goossen battled this aggressive illness with boundless strength and the last days of his life were fought and lived with unflinching bravery, pure love and grace beyond measure."
In this, it is not surprising to find similarities to the fearless and shrewd ways that he advocated for and promoted his fighters in a life that according to all that knew him was lived in full color with the volume turned up to 11 on a rock n’ roll THIS IS SPINAL TAP worthy scale of 1 to 10. Boxing associates such as Top Rank Matchmaker Bruce Trampler and fellow promoter Lou DiBella were among those who said it best in an outpouring of support and condolences that overflowed in the public media and twitter verse:
Bruce Trampler: “We get 140 characters on Twitter - Dan Goossen was 140 characters in himself! What a smart funny bright crazy talented witty amazing guy.”
Lou DiBella: “I had many laughs with Dan Goossen. He had a great sense of humor and a big, colorful loving family. Will miss our early morning talks. RIP.”
As someone who never shied from expressing himself inside or outside of the ring when it came to his fighters and his business, the news of Mr. Goossen’s death, as well as his illness was a shock to many of his professional intimates. Despite the fact that it has now been revealed that Mr. Goossen learned of his illness on labor day and after receiving treatment via surgery shortly thereafter never left the Los Angeles Hospital where he was diagnosed, many of his current fighters, such as light middleweight Vanes Martirosyan (34-1-1, 21KOs) had no idea that Mr. Goossen was ill. Set to battle this Saturday in an eliminator fight with the durable Willie Nelson (23-1-1, 13 KOs) in Mashantucket, Connecticut, at the Foxwoods Resort in a main event set to be televised on Showtime this Saturday at 6pm PDT on Showtime East and 9PM on Showtime West, it was only on Monday with the announcement of Goossen’s death that Martirosyan learned that anything serious was amiss with Mr. Goossen’s health. Indeed, from Martirosyan’s relating of events and conversations between himself and the promoter with whom he was close, Goossen tweeted with him only last week about how excited he was for Martirosyan’s fight with Nelson as well as favorite foods they could enjoy together once the fight was over and victory was Martirosyan’s:
MARTIROSYAN: “He kept it from everyone. He tweeted me a few days ago saying he can’t wait for my fight and also his favorite steak house… nobody knew besides family and that was because he didn’t want people to know.”
In retrospect, the biggest clue Martirosyan felt that he had to the true nature of the situation – or even that there was a situation was the demeanor of his coach, Dan Goossen’s brother and celebrated boxing trainer Joe Goossen:
MARTIROSYAN: “ … (Joe) was keeping it away from us. We felt Joe was acting weird, but (he) didn’t tell us anything. Joe will be coming to my fight this Saturday and we are going to win big for Dan in his memory…. He has made a big impact in my boxing life and I won’t forget all the good things he has done.”
With his brother now gone, trainer Joe Goossen had this to say of his elder sibling and partner in the business of boxing:
JOE GOOSSEN: “ I’ve tried not to lose focus… He was the guy who came through, made everything happen…He made the parties happen, made the dinners happen...was bigger than life…I’m going to miss that personality.... Now, I feel like my better half in this business is not going to be here anymore. It’s a strange feeling and I honestly don’t know what to make of it.”
Given Dan Goossen’s longstanding impact on the professional boxing industry as well as his impact on the personal lives of the legion of fighters that he touched, discovered, resurrected and put on the map through his work, many great warriors within the ring and outside of it had much to say this week regarding Mr. Goossen and how much he will be missed. Chris Arreola, Wayne McCullough, Fernando Vargas, Sugar Ray Leonard, Robert Garcia, Oscar De La Hoya, Sergio Mora, James Toney and Fres Oquendo, were just a few of a veritable army who gave their condolences and remembrances of Mr. Goossen. In the case of Mr. Oquendo, the memories were heartfelt despite past business matters in which they didn’t always see eye to eye:
OQUENDO: “My first real promoter Dan Goossen passed away today. Although we had a problem back in 2008…I had forgiven him. He believed in me.... When my daughter Jada was born and she was touch and go he didn’t give me a hard time about canceling the fight and sent flowers to her in the hospital and took care of me. I wish his family strength and my prayers are with them. It is a sad day for boxing.”
It follows in that vein that one of the more surprisingly noteworthy words of farewell came from longtime Goossen promoted fighter Andre Ward (27-0-0, 14KOs). Goossen, who had promoted Andre Ward for the sum and total of Ward’s highly successful professional career, had recently seen their business relationship sour to the point of litigation. Despite having worked well as fighter and promoter for 10 years with the added luxury of fighting largely on Ward’s own turf of Oakland, California, Ward had nevertheless been trying heartily to sever his promotional contract with Goossen of late. Having been rebuffed by the courts in his endeavors as recently as August of this year, Andre has remained out of the ring and unable to fight for close to a year with his last fight to date having been a win in November 2013 versus Edwin Rodriguez (24-1-0, 16KOs). Despite this bad blood, Andre “Son of God” Ward’s words were wistful and accorded the fallen Goossen his due as a man of great stature and regular means as a person to whom family and business meant a great deal:
WARD: "I was deeply saddened to learn the news of Dan Goossen's passing early this morning. My thoughts and prayers have been with Dan and his family since I received the news of his illness last week. While Dan and I recently had our professional struggles, he was a great man, father and husband. He will be greatly missed by the boxing community. I will continue to keep the Goossen family in my prayers."
Undoubtedly the best way to honor those who have departed is to recount the wonders that they have left behind and the greatness of who they have been in their choices during their time here on earth. To that end, Dan Goossen during a prolific career that spanned from the 1980s until 2014, promoted the best of the best in boxing. The best included the likes of Mike Tyson, Paul Williams, Joel Casamayor, Bernard Hopkins, David Tua and Floyd Mayweather as a considerable yet small sample. Notable early milestones for Goossen in the 80s were garnering his first world champion in 1988 with fighter Michael Nunn, as well as the subsequent world championship wins of siblings Gabriel and Rafael Ruelas. All three fighters were trained by Dan’s brother and partner in crime, Joe Goossen under the successful and influential family affair that was Dan Goossen’s Ten Goose Boxing promotional company, a nod to Dan Goossen being one of ten Goossen siblings. Never one to veer away from what he thought was the right thing to do, Goossen was the only major promoter to testify on record at the Boxing Reform Senate Hearings initiated by senator John McCain in 1999 in regards to preserving and protecting the lives and continued health of professional boxers. In that same year of 1999, Dan Goossen was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame. In 2005, he earned the same distinction on his home court with induction into California’s Boxing Hall of Fame.
Dan Goossen is survived by his wife Debbie as well as his four sons Chris, Craig, Max and Rex. His younger brother and fellow 2005 California Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, trainer Joe Goossen, also survives Mr. Goossen. Mr. Goossen is additionally survived by six of ten other siblings along with brother Joe. They are respectively brothers, Pat, Mike, Larry and Tom and two sisters, Ellorie and Sandra. Older brother and former Major League Baseball player Greg Goossen passed away in 2011.
It has been announced that the funeral of Mr. Goossen will be held in Sherman Oaks, California on Tuesday, September 7th.
In lieu of flowers, the Goossen family asks for donations in Dan's memory to the charity he established to honor his late brother -- The Greg Goossen '64 Scholarship Fund at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High School, NDHS Goossen Fund, and mailed to:
NDHS, 13645 Riverside Drive, Sherman Oaks CA 91423.
Written by Kylie Krabbe
Photo by Soren Krabbe
October 3rd 2014