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This Goossen Has a Golden Touch


Reality for Dan Goossen was selling pens and pencils over the telephone.

His dream was to take on boxing's two promoting powerhouses, Bob Arum and Don King.

His gym, back in the early 1980s, consisted of a ring built under a tree on a Wiffle Ball field at the end of a North Hollywood cul-de-sac.

His fight stable consisted of a guy from the nearby car wash, named Nacho, and a car salesman named Harry Kazandjian.

The odds Goossen would be successful?

About the same as the odds he could turn a door-to-door candy salesman into a champion.

Or that he could take a light-hitting middleweight from the Reseda Country Club and give him a chance to be the next Sugar Ray Leonard.

Or that he could resurrect a former champion who had let his lack of discipline and willpower eat away at his chances for greatness. Literally.

Any sports book on the Las Vegas strip would give odds of at least 1,000 to 1 on any of those propositions.

But, two decades later, Goossen has cashed in on all of them.

He hosted a party the other night in Hollywood to celebrate the biggest victory of his new promotional company, Goossen Tutor, and arguably the biggest victory of his boxing career.

It came a week ago at the Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., when James Toney's hand was raised in triumph over Vassiliy Jirov, giving Toney the International Boxing Federation cruiserweight title.

And giving the 53-year-old Goossen leverage he's never enjoyed before.

The phone, it seems, hasn't stopped ringing since. Well-wishers offer congratulations, reporters seek interviews, television executives discuss fight dates.

And even King has come calling. And calling.

King and Goossen spoke five times on Friday alone. That's because King has the two most logical, and lucrative, options for Toney's next move, fights against either Chris Byrd or Bernard Hopkins.

"I've been at the top and I've been at the bottom," Goossen said, "so I've always tried to keep an even keel. In the worst of times, I never contemplated suicide. And in the best times, I wasn't going to act like I was Bill Gates on top of the world."

It's a been a long, pothole-strewn, detour-plagued road from that old outdoor gym that served as the starting point for Ten Goose Boxing. The name refers to the 10 children of Al and Anna May Goossen. Al was an investigator for the Los Angeles Police Department, working on such heralded cases as the Black Dahlia murder of the 1940s and the Caryl Chessman case in the 1950s.

But for most of his kids, sports was the avenue of life. Greg was the first to excel. A baseball player, he was drafted by the Dodgers and spent time in New York, Seattle, Milwaukee and Washington. Brothers Pat, Joe and Larry all gravitated to boxing.

Dan was enamored with the business side of the sport. He used some of those pens and pencils he was pushing over the phone to make a few calculations and figured he could make a sweet profit in the sweet science.

"I learned more selling pens and pencils over the phone than I did sitting next to Don King," Goossen said. "It's all about selling."

Goossen's first base of operation was the Country Club. It was there that Michael Nunn developed until he was seemingly on the cusp of greatness. In the late 1980s, with Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran gone or fading, Nunn seemed poised to emerge into spotlight that had favored them for so long.

But, at the very peak of his career, Nunn inexplicably turned his back on Goossen, put himself in the hands of novice friends, developed a drug habit and was never the same.

"Losing Nunn was the low point," Goossen conceded.

There were other lows. Gabriel and Rafael Ruelas, barely into their teens, came to the Ten Goose gym selling candy and developed into boxing champions. While Rafael got the most out of his talent, it was Gabe who had the greater potential. But a severely damaged elbow and his fight against Jimmy Garcia, a fight that cost Garcia his life, left Gabe with physical and emotional problems that cut his career short.

Finally, the mom-and-pop outfit sold out to the big corporation. Goossen gave up Ten Goose in 1994, moved to Las Vegas and went to work for Arum's Top Rank Boxing Organization. But Goossen found it too difficult to take orders and work within the constraints of a company after being on his own for so long.

So he left Top Rank in 1996, moved to Denver and, with the financial resources of Matt Tinley, nephew of media giant Bill Daniels, formed America Presents.

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