By Ivan G. Goldman
I’ve been rewriting this sentence for awhile now, trying to figure out a way to talk about the death of Dan Goossen. It’s hard to sum up a guy like him and to do it fairly and accurately. He was larger than any sentence you can construct. And he very much enjoyed his life.
Dan was a great guy to be around. He never wasted time. He knew you could always use it for something important, like having fun.
Dan Goossen died this morning at age 64 after losing out to liver cancer. He had boxing in his blood, loved the sport, the fighters, the fans, and worked his butt off to put on good shows. His joy was infectious. You always had a good time with Dan. Just sitting around his office and swapping stories was time well spent.
Boxing is a tough racket, and most promoters don’t make it, but Dan was always able to hang in there and have a fine time doing it.
The son of an LAPD detective, he grew up in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles and was living there when he died. He used to sneak crime photos to school and share them with his classmates. He had solid roots, one of ten kids, and they stuck together.
A creepy Internet boxing writer once tried to extort advertising dollars out of Dan and then made a second mistake of stepping into an elevator with two of Dan’s brothers. He never made either of those mistakes again.
Dan was a promoter with ideas. When he couldn’t get Showtime or HBO interested in the second bout between Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola, this time for the vacant WBC belt, he thought outside the box and took the fight over to ESPN, where it could get three times the number of viewers. And when he couldn’t fit it into any of the usual venues he rented out the basketball stadium at USC, priced tickets starting at a reasonable $25, and made it a success. Apparently that was the first boxing card ever held there – May 10, 2014.
“Dan was willing to roll the dice,” recalled boxing publicist and former colleague Fred Sternburg, “and he was always coming up with ideas. If something didn’t work, he’d try something else.” Goossen didn’t just surrender to fate. He worked hard at making his own fate, and he was always willing to step back so his fighters would be the story.
A partial list includes Andre Ward, Chris Arreola, James Toney, Michael Nunn, Paul Williams, and Gabriel and Rafael Ruelas. All except Arreola developed into world champions. His brother Joe trained some of them, including the Ruelas brothers, who originally wandered into Joe’s gym to sell candy.
Dan Goossen was never the biggest promoter out there, but he had an eye for talent, and he was always an important promoter who could work with anybody. Promoters sue each other a lot, but he never took it personally. He was just about impossible to dislike. They’d file suit one morning and banter with each other the next day.
I recall once when rival promoter Don King took over the microphone at a media conference and delivered one of his rambling, nonstop rants. Dan, who’d heard it all before, sat at the table hammering out other business on his smart phone right in front of the TV cameras.
Dan had a great old time when photos of rival promoter Oscar De La Hoya in drag were released over the Internet. Dan wasn’t mean-spirited about it. It was just a source of entertainment. At the time I was writing a column for Ring magazine, and the next time he saw me Dan couldn’t wait to get the digs in because Oscar’s company owned the magazine (it still does). I told him I was particularly disappointed in Oscar for wearing those net stockings. “They make him look fat,” I said. Dan loved it.
Sternburg recalled being particularly impressed when Dan helped resurrect Toney’s career, this time as a heavyweight and with Freddie Roach in the corner. James, like Dan, had a sly sense of humor, and loved to put on a show. They were a great match.
Dan wasn’t afraid to spend money to make money. When he put out a lunch buffet, he didn’t scrimp. He wore the finest threads, dined in the choicest spots, and knew his way around all the five-star hotels. “A lot of haberdashers are flying their flags at half-mast this morning,” said Sternburg.
On Labor Day he was feeling ill, and his wife drove him to the hospital. He never left. The family, speaking through Sternburg, said 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.”
Dan Goossen was a dedicated family man who spoke reverently about his wife and children. You’d never see him drunk – or stupid. He will be missed.
New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman’s Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag was released in 2013 by Potomac Books. Watch for The Debtor Class: A Novel from Permanent Press in spring, 2015. More Information Here