By Thomas Gerbasi
When Mongolia’s Tugstsogt Nyambayar wanted to turn pro following an amateur career highlighted by his Silver medal-winning performance in the 2012 Olympics, he wanted only one man in his corner.
The reason was simple.
“To the best of my knowledge, he had – like so many other fighters – seen the (Diego) Corrales-(Jose Luis) Castillo fight,” Goossen recalled. “And I guess it was his goal to find me in America when he came here. And through a few inquiries, his sponsor in California was able to track me down and bring the kid to my gym. So it was a mission of his, unbeknownst to me of course.”
Today, Nyambayar, affectionately known around the Ten Goose Boxing Gym in Van Nuys, California as “King Tug,” is 4-0 with four knockouts as a pro. The 23-year-old junior featherweight was scheduled to face New York veteran Rafael Vazquez on March 15, but that bout was postponed, sending the Ulan-Bator native back to work until he gets the call again.
Goossen will be there, as he has been, not just teaching, but watching. It’s what he’s done throughout his career as a trainer, and at 62, working with fighters has been more than a job. It’s been his life, and when you’re in charge of a boxer’s well-being in the gym and on fight night, it’s a responsibility not to be taken lightly. So when Nyambayar wanted to work with Goossen based on his corner work in the classic first battle between his fighter, Corrales, and Castillo, he knew he was getting a certain kind of fighter.
“His style is naturally aggressive, to attack,” he said. “And I think he saw a style in Corrales that was an aggressive and pressure style. Maybe because of those similarities, he thought that I might be the guy for him. He’s a devastating puncher and he climbs all over you right from the beginning. So he’s a very aggressive guy, like Diego was in that fight. So that might be the rationale. I didn’t probe too deeply on all of that.”
What Goossen does think about though, is what happened on the night of May 7, 2005 in the ring at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. For nearly ten rounds, Corrales and Castillo engaged in a war that could easily be described as the greatest prizefight of all-time. Filled with high-level action from start to finish, the bout also had drama worthy of an Oscar-winning film, with Corrales rising from two knockdowns in the 10th round to stop Castillo later in that same frame. For those watching, it was the beauty and brutality of the sport wrapped up in one night.
Goossen remembers the aftermath of the bout. It was the night after the annual Boxing Writers Association of America awards dinner, and several notable fighters were in town to watch the fight.
“Each and every one of them that came up to me after the fight, they all said ‘man, that’s the type of fight we want to be in. The fight I always dreamed of,’” he said. “And I would always say to myself ‘that’s not the fight you want to dream of. That’s not the fight you want to be in.’ And if those guys were thinking it, a competitor like ‘Tug’ would probably be thinking the same thing. That’s an attractive proposition to some of those guys – on paper. But be careful what you wish for. This is not the type of fight you want to be in. We happened to be in it, but I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. That type of fight is a career-killer, to tell you the truth.”
Goossen didn’t want an immediate rematch for his man against Castillo, but Corrales took the bout five months later. He was knocked out in four rounds and lost his last two fights before losing his life in a motorcycle accident, two years to the day after his greatest victory.
“Everyone dreamed of having the technique, the courage, the tenacity, the determination that was shown that night in the ring,” Goossen muses. “And I guess it’s something good to aspire to. So I’m not gonna deny anybody that. But deep down inside, I dread for a fighter to have to be in a fight like that because they both ended up in the hospital and they were both severely damaged from that fight. But you’re not gonna see many fights like that. That was a marathon inside fight and a grueling match and both of them refused to lose that fight.”
In the eyes of many, that win by Corrales may be the crowning achievement of a career filled with them for Goossen. And while he’s won championships before and after, and led kids from nothing to the top of the game, to boxing fans, he is immortalized as the guy who told Corrales after the second knockdown against Castillo, “you gotta f***in’ get inside on him now.”
Corrales did as instructed and won. That’s what a young fighter like Nyambayar sees in Goossen, and it’s a bond that transcends the language barrier that has grown smaller since the two began working together.
“If it was left up to me to learn Mongolian, we’re all in trouble,” Goossen said. “‘Tug’ is a very smart kid. He speaks Russian, he speaks Mongolian and I think he speaks one other language. But he took to English very quickly and now there’s not a thing I can tell him that he does not understand. He speaks a modicum of English, but he understands a vast amount of it. The Mongolian language is a very difficult language, at least to my ear. So thank God he made the effort. It take a lot of heat off me.”
The rest of that heat? Goossen willingly takes it on, and while his fighters will go out there on the front lines, at least they know they have backup if they need it. So while Goossen won’t baby Nyambayar, he won’t throw him to the wolves either. It’s not an easy job, but few do it better than him.
“You’ve got to be protective, but not overly protective, because this guy’s got a pedigree,” he said. “He’s advanced and he fights like a 10-round fighter already. I’m not looking to win titles right now, but Tug is the type of guy that trains very hard and he works as if he’s fighting 10-rounders right now. Do I mind putting him in a 10-rounder? Not if I feel he’s gonna come out on top and look great doing it. But with a guy like Tug, you’re gonna take a few more chances. Then again, it’s a fine line. You’ve got make sure that you know what you’re looking at in terms of opponents. That being said, I feel very confident in putting him on a little bit more of a fast track than I normally would.”