By Francisco Salazar
I do not like funerals.
In fact, I stay away from them as much as I can.
The last funeral I went to was for Rogelio Juarez, my colleague, coach, and friend from Channel Islands High School in Oxnard in January. He succumbed to cancer at the age of 54.
I was not sure I wanted to go to the funeral of Dan Goossen on Tuesday. Goossen lost his life to liver cancer on September 29. Goossen was a larger-than-life man, who was best known as the head of Goossen Tutor Promotions.
After much debate in my head, I decided to go. I had to pay my respects to someone whom I respected and had gotten to know over the years.
Whether it was a phone call to his office or speaking to him directly at a press conference or a fight, Dan Goossen always gave me his time and answered my questions as much as he could, especially if it was his fighters during negotiations.
So I drove down the 101 Freeway from Oxnard (I had just coached a game for the Oxnard College Women’s soccer team earlier in the day) to St. Francis De Sales Church in Sherman Oaks, a suburb of Los Angeles. Sherman Oaks is in the heart of the San Fernando Valley of Southern California, where the Goossen family is well-known and respected.
The reason I do not like funerals is I break down in public. I do not like breaking down in front of people and I did plenty of that at Rogelio Juarez’s funeral.
So I braced myself as I walked inside the church and sat in a pew near the back of the church.
What I expected to be a funeral with sad faces was really a celebration of the life of Dan Goossen. Most of the boxing world was represented at the funeral, including Bob Arum and Don King, rivals in the promoter game, but friends away from the boxing world.
Publicists, members of the media, network executives, and television and radio personalities came to pay their respect on that warm evening to Dan and the Goossen family.
During the service, there were times when I had a knot in my throat. The boxing world will no longer get to see Dan sport a bright-colored suit, crack a corny joke, and show that wry smile, whether he was amused or heard something that did not agree with him.
As the night progressed, I began to realize how much Dan Goossen had an impact on the sport and the characters that make up boxing. For example, he would give fighters a second chance in the sport. Look at James Toney. Would he have had the run he did about 10-12 years ago, including his epic against Vassily Jirov, if it was not for Dan Goossen?
Heavyweight to minimum weight and anywhere in between, Dan Goossen gave fighters many opportunities and stressed loyalty. Let’s face it: He was a devout family man and loyalty meant everything to him.
Speaking of family, Dan Goossen had family members work alongside him. His son Craig Goossen handles the operation of the company, while Tom Brown, his brother-in-law, was his matchmaker.
Family was stressed throughout the service and it hit visually hit home. On the back of the program that was handed out to those in attendance, there was a collage of pictures showing Dan Goossen with his family.
It is funny how death works sometimes. I did not have an opportunity to say good bye to Dan Goossen, but being inside the church did give me closure after being stunned and surprised liver cancer claimed the life of a boxing promoter, but more importantly: a family man.
Dan Goossen lived life to the fullest, as Rich Marotta reminded those in attendance in his eulogy. Marotta is a longtime television and radio broadcaster, which includes boxing, hockey, and basketball. Marotta and Goossen were classmates at nearby Notre Dame High School.
Marotta reminded everyone what Dan Goossen meant to all of us. Everyone had a story about Dan and everyone had some sort of connection with the man.
Even in death, Dan Goossen found ways to bring to people together. At the reception after the service, I was in an auditorium, sipping on a vodka and cranberry juice drink. I ran into Ivan Goldman, the longtime boxing writer whose work has appeared in Ring Magazine and other publications. ‘
As I was speaking to him, Gordon Hall, the Showtime executive, walked up to us. I had thought both knew of each other, until one of them introduced himself. Even in death, Dan Goossen had a way of uniting people.
As I walked to my truck parked on the grass (and after eating a cheesesteak from a food truck, something Dan Goossen loved), I realized not one tear came out of my eyes during my time at the church. That is probably what Dan Goossen wanted. Not for people to cry for him (although I’m sure family and intimate friends did plenty of that), but to be together and celebrate life. I mean, that is what family should do, right?
I will end this story with one Dan Goossen anecdote, something I told Debbie Goossen, Dan’s wife and now widow.
About three-four years ago (while I was writing for Fightnews), I called Dan Goossen regarding a few updates on his fighters.
When I got through to his office, a familiar voice greeted me on the other line.
“Hey teach,” was what Goossen told me. I teach at Channel Islands High School in South Oxnard.
“Hey Dan, thanks for your time,” I responded.
“How are the kids?” Dan asked regarding my work in the classroom.
“Well, I broke up a fight at school today.” I recalled.
After a few moments, Dan gave the ultimate one-line response.
“Was it any good?”
Thanks for everything, Dan. You were one-of-a-kind. I’m not saying a good bye, but I will see you later.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Salazar also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He could be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing