Let's play a word game.
If you see the words boxing trainer , what do you think of? An overweight, cigar-chomping, middle-aged man with food stains on his shirt, tobacco stains on his teeth and the ability to talk out of the side of his mouth in an unintelligible manner, right? Kind of like Burgess Meredith in the Rocky movies.
Take a look at Joe Goossen and then think again. He is none of the above.
As a matter of fact, when you look at the baby-faced, 33-year-old Goossen crouched in the corner of a ring, the natural tendency is to ask him to return to his seat before he gets hurt.
That's understandable. Goossen not only doesn't look like a trainer, he doesn't act like one either. His reading material includes a lot more than just Ring magazine, he does the best Johnny Carson impersonation this side of Rich Little, his face is unmarked and he's in better shape than some of the fighters he's trained.
So what's a guy like this doing in a sweaty gym?
Joe Goossen was a football player. A 155-pound linebacker facing 225-pounders, he wasn't going too far in that sport, but Goossen played at L.A. City College and Pierce.
He knew his future wasn't in that direction, but he hoped it would be somewhere in the sports world. Sports was in his family's blood. His brother Greg played major league baseball. His brother Dan was a college basketball player.
"If I was going to do anything with the rest of my life," Joe says, "I wanted it to be sports related."
He imagined himself a fighter. Until he got into the ring with one. When Joe was just a 16-year-old student at Grant High, his brother Pat told him about this 15-year-old hotshot at a nearby gym.
"He could kick your behind," Pat told Joe.
"There's no way a 15-year-old could do that," Joe said.
And to prove his point, the younger Goossen went in search of this tough 15-year-old.
When he finally found him--a mild-looking, 115-pound blond kid--Goossen walked up to him and said, simply, "I'm Joe Goossen and I'd like to fight you."
The kid nodded awkwardly, stuck out his hand and said, "Hi, I'm Randy Shields."
Shields would go on to become a professional fighter, first as a lightweight, then as a welterweight. He would fight twice for a world title, losing a close decision to World Boxing Assn. champion Pipino Cuevas and, two years later, lasting into the 13th round before being stopped by then-WBA champ Thomas Hearns. Shields also lost a close fight to future champion Sugar Ray Leonard in a non-title fight.
But on that particular day, he was going to face Joe Goossen, who had never been in a ring and had no idea what he was getting into.
The pair went over to Shields' house where his father, Sonny, kept a ring in the backyard. Sonny gave Goossen some gloves and a mouthpiece and rang an imaginary bell. Goossen and Shields fought three rounds before Joe had enough. He was still standing, but Shields was beginning to land some crushing blows toward the finish.
The fight was over. But a lasting friendship had just begun.
Goossen stayed around for 12 years. He worked in Shields' corner throughout his career. At first, it was out of friendship for Shields and the excitement of the fight scene. But as time went on, Goossen kept absorbing the activity around him. It not only creeped into his brain, but also his blood.
When Shields retired, Goossen turned to a career as a salesman. He sold office supplies, but he couldn't get the smell of the ring out of his nostrils. When he, his brother Dan and others members of his family formed the Ten Goose Boxing Club of North Hollywood three years ago, there was no doubt what Joe's role in the operation would be.
"I felt confident I could prepare fighters," Joe says. "How I was not really sure."
Joe Goossen spends six to seven days a week in the Ten Goose gym, which consists of a ring, punching bags and a training area ensconced in a single-room house built specifically for the purpose on a cul-de-sac on a quiet North Hollywood street.
He works with fighters whose experience ranges from novice 15- and 16-year-olds to a Frankie Duarte, who was fighting when Goossen was still in school.
Duarte (39-6-1 overall) is 7-1-1 under the Ten Goose banner and will fight Jesus Salud (20-0) tonight at the Forum for the North American Boxing Federation bantamweight title.
For those who wonder why a veteran of just one amateur fight is telling others how to box, Goossen has an answer.
"I have never been one to dwell on what other people think," he says. "If someone gives me responsibility for something, I'm going to do it. I feel my family has always been winners. I've spent a lot of time in different gyms. I've watched and I've learned. Someone doesn't have to tell you to connect dot A to dot C. I've got an eye for athletics. I've picked this stuff up. Look at Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda. He was never a great ballplayer, but he learned enough by participating to know what it takes to win. He found his niche in coaching and managing. It's the same for me."