Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dan Goossen Makes the Hard Sell

Promoter Dan Goossen has been working hard to let the public know that Paul Williams vs. Winky Wright is going to be a very good fight.

Make no mistake about it, promoter Dan Goossen knows a thing or two about this game they call boxing and he knows how to sell a prizefight.

Goossen, the co-promoter of tomorrow night’s Paul Williams vs. Winky Wright headliner at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, goes back nearly three decades with his first boxing promotional company. It was called “Ten Goose Boxing” and it was named after he and his nine siblings. Goossen has been around long enough to have hyped Mr. “T” before he ushered Gabe and Rafael Ruelas as well as Michael Nunn to world championships.

So Goossen obviously knows when he has a good fight on his hands and he’s a little exasperated that tickets for Saturday night’s big show are turning out to be selling about as fast as a parking lot full of General Motors’ finest. There are reports emanating from Sin City, which are difficult to validate, since any information that comes from the Mandalay Bay Events Center press offices are more controlled than the teleprompter at a Barack Obama news conference, that indicate 90% of the seats remain unsold.

“You know, the pundits out there, anyone that doesn't think this is going to be a great fight don't - doesn't know Paul Williams or Winky Wright,” said Goossen, 59, about the HBO televised match-up which also features heavyweight Chris Arreola against Jameel McCline.

“Winky fights the way that he needs to fight, to go out there and try to get his victories and Paul fights one way - and one way only - and that is to go out there and punish them, hence his nickname.”

On Thursday afternoon, with months of hard training behind them, Winky Wright and Paul Williams take a moment to pose for pictures with Goossen.

The very pundits Goossen refers to are lukewarm to the idea of paying to watch the two southpaws, especially Wright, who has a jab first and punch later mentality. But Goossen calls Wright “avoided” and Williams “feared” and claims that nobody within 15 pounds of the pair had the guts to step into a ring with either of them.

So Goossen, always slick and thick with the hyperbole, and Richard Schaefer, a relative newcomer and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, who is quickly learning Goossen’s wordsmith ways, decided to match Williams and Wright together.

Over the course of the past month or so, the pair have sounded an awful lot like infomercial king Billy Mays: “Hi, Dan Goossen and Richard Schaefer here! Have we got a fight for you!” as they try to sell a bout between two fighters that don’t have a strong or identifiable fan base.

But in the grand scheme of things, the match-up has been unfairly maligned and it may not turn out to be a bad fight at all, as Goossen explains.

“You know, I guess avoided and feared can be sometimes intertwined,” he says. “I do know that Winky has been the most avoided fighter for - since I can remember. And Paul has been the most feared for the last few years, which I think has transcended into being avoided. They kind of go hand-in-hand and, you know, I wouldn't care what the prices were of these tickets, even though they've been priced very reasonably.”

Easy for Goossen to say, since he’ll have a complimentary ringside seat. And does that mean that boxing ticket prices before the recession were priced unreasonably? But I digress.

Wright hasn't fought since he dropped a decision to Bernard Hopkins (left) way back in July 2007.

“So, you know, no matter what those prices would be, I'm going to tell you right now - and I would love to have any reporters who tell me that this is going to be a fight that's not going to be not exciting - because I would put everything on the line on this fight and say that it's going to be one of the most exciting fights of 2009,” continued Goossen. “And if I hear any reporters that scoff at that - I'm sure Winky and Paul will back me up on it.”

Certainly Williams makes a case for himself as being one of the most entertaining fighters in the sport. He has an all action style and is a hyperactive, non-stop, punch thrower who has scored 27 knockouts in 36 wins.

With a 2007 career win over Antonio Margarito, briefly interrupted by a decision loss to Carlos Quintana which he would immediately avenge with a first round knockout to take back his WBO welterweight title, Williams would go on to score two more knockouts over fighters at 154 and 160 pounds. At 6’1” tall and with the wingspan of a heavyweight, Williams has a pliable body that is effective anywhere between welterweight and middleweight.

“Paul Williams can’t be in anything except an exciting fight because that’s his style,” pleads a truthful Goossen. “He forces people to fight or quit.”

Goossen is of the feeling that Williams can’t and won’t lose against the 37 year-old Wright, a longtime former jr. middleweight champion who is coming off a nearly two year, self-imposed hiatus from gloved combat. Wright is an impressive and capable fighter who has only been beaten four times in 56 fights after nearly 20 years as a pro.

“Winky is going to be put in the position where he’s gotta’ fight,” says Goossen of Wright, who has only scored one knockout win in the last decade and is sometimes perceived to be a reluctant warrior.

Goossen is willing to collaborate in order to make a fight happen. Here he is pictured with Don King, with whom he has teamed up with on numerous occasions.

“Paul Williams knows one way to fight and that is to come out there and try and rip your head off. And Winky Wright, Shane Mosley, none of these guys, Bernard Hopkins can change the way that he’s going to fight. Paul is going to use his will and his power to make it exciting for the fans. It’s a can’t miss fight to me because Paul is not going to sit there and have a feeling out round. Paul just wants to go out there and knock you out.”

Goossen says that his hands were tied when it came to matching Williams against Wright. To hear him tell it, Goossen claims he tried to find Williams a fight everywhere against everybody from 147 to 160 pounds. He beat the bushes and poked and prodded and couldn’t get anybody, except Wright, to come out of hiding and step up to the plate and stand in the batter’s box against Williams.

“We tried to get Shane, we tried to get Oscar and we couldn’t get them,” says Goossen who has made legitimate offers to many fighters to face Williams only to see them go unheeded and unanswered.

“From our point of view this is the type of fight that we were trying to get for Paul - to get one of these guys that are the stars of the past,” explained Goossen of his plan. “We couldn’t get them, so we went out and got Winky Wright and that’s the next best thing. Winky obviously beat Shane twice so a victory here for Paul tomorrow night will mean everything. I’m very confident that he’s going to beat Winky.”

Where either fighter goes after Saturday night - win or lose - is anyone’s guess. Certainly Williams has the better upside because he can fight anywhere from welterweight to middleweight and at age 27 he has a wide range of possibilities. On the other hand Wright, 37, would take a major step backward with a loss and his continued viability as a top fighter would come into question.

If all goes according to plan, Williams will be smiling on Saturday night, too.

But Goossen, who has seen them all in the decades he has been around, says his money is all on “The Punisher.”

“Even if it’s the reinvigorated and top of the game Winky Wright, I believe Paul Williams will win,” says Goossen in one last sales pitch. “Paul is an unusual athlete, not only because of his size and his reach, but because of his mental make-up, his intestinal fortitude and most importantly his offense. I believe this is the fight that puts Paul at the top of the heap and makes him the standard bearer for anyone from 147 to 160 pounds.”

Take it from Dan Goossen, he knows a thing or two about how to make the hard sell.

April 2009

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