On Quiet N. Hollywood Street, 10 Members of Goossen Clan Are . . . : Fighting for the Little Guy

Times Staff Writer

Twenty years ago, Casey Stengel, then manager of the New York Mets, introduced his catcher to the press.

"This is Goossen," he said in a bit of classic Stengelese. "He's 19 years old and he's got a good chance to be 29 in 10 years."

Today, at 39, Greg Goossen has switched sports. He's involved in boxing, in a venture with his huge family that has a chance to be a real force in the sport.

In an age when supermarket chains have reduced mom-and-pop stores to oddities and agricultural empires have reduced many small farmers to bankruptcy, the Goossens are trying to strike a blow, actually a lot of blows, for the little guy.

Ten Goose Boxing is a mom-and-pop-and-the-kids operation, "All in the Family" goes to the fights. It's an operation that includes finding the fighters, finding them fights, doing the training, signing the contracts and planning the boxers' careers.

Ten Goose Boxing is:

--Al, the 69-year-old patriarch of the family. The senior Goossen spent 16 years with the Los Angeles Police Department before retiring to go into private security work. He now heads Al Goossen Investigations ($50 an hour, 50 a mile plus expenses) after a career that involved a role in the Black Dahlia murder of the 1940s, the Caryl Chessman case in the '50s and the pursuit of various Mafia figures over the years. When Goossen fighter Michael Nunn heads a March 26th card at Reseda's Country Club, Al will serve as the promoter.

--Dan, 35. He is president of Ten Goose, the man who manages the fighters, negotiates the purses, does most of the promoting, the public relations work, the financial work and anything else that might otherwise fall between the cracks. He also holds down a job as a phone salesman, as do several of his brothers. Nobody in the family can yet afford to work solely for Ten Goose which, Dan said, is only now about to start showing a small profit.

--Joe, 31, and Greg. They are the trainers, the men who put the fighters through their daily workouts, give them a kick in the pants or a pat on the back, or both, and work their corners during the fights.

--Pat, 42. The only one of the Goossens to fight professionally (he was 7-1 as a welterweight), Pat worked for Ten Goose as a trainer, but is now devoting himself to his son, Erick, first of the next generation of Goossens in boxing. Erick, 18, is a featherweight who has won three of his first four professional fights and got a draw in the other.

--Mike and Larry, the 34-year-old twins. Mike is an attorney (with the slogan, "We fight to the finish") and handles all legal matters for Ten Goose. There have already been a few. Dan, charging "breach of contract and fraud," is suing Mr. T., the actor, for $16 million. Larry is referred to as the trouble-shooter. He fills in for his brothers wherever he is needed, in the gym or at the arena.

--Tommy, 29. The youngest son, he is not involved directly in Ten Goose Boxing, but provides an important element. He owns the land on which the Ten Goose gym sits.

--Gordon, 44. Currently a salesman, he is spending his free time as a law student and hopes eventually to assist Mike in that aspect of the business.

--Mother Anna May and daughters Ellorie (43) and Sandi (26). They provide the cheers and emotional support at ringside.

Emotional support was a prime ingredient two years ago when the Goossens got started. All they had was a plot of open land next to a house Tommy owned on a North Hollywood cul-de-sac nestled next to the Hollywood Freeway. It was the site of some ferocious family whiffle-ball games.

At the time, Dan had just been given the ax by Lawrence Tereaud, known to the world as Mr. T. Goossen claimed he managed Tereaud from his days as a bar bouncer in Chicago to his breakthrough into the big money as co-star of Rocky III, with nothing more than a verbal agreement between the two. Then one day, according to Goossen, Tereaud called up and said, simply, "You're fired."

So much for working for someone else.

Dan Goossen knew a little about fighting. Brother Pat had fought as a professional. Brothers Joe, Greg and Larry had fought as amateurs. And Joe had spent a decade as a corner man for top welterweight contender Randy Shields.

"I asked my brothers if they'd be interested in starting our own boxing business," Dan said.

"I thought it was a great idea," Joe recalled. "I always knew if I was going to do something with my life, I wanted it to be in sports. So if we were going to be involved with gyms, why don't we build our own?"

That they did. At least, they built a ring, constructed under a tree on their old whiffle-ball field.

"The next thing we needed was a fighter," Dan said. "We just had a name and an idea. We had a ring. We had a heavy bag. But no fighters."

So they found one. Sort of. Dan remembers his name was Nacho or "something like that," worked at a nearby car wash and said he wanted to be a fighter.

"We bought him trunks and hand wraps and everything," Dan said. "We brought Sonny Shields (father and trainer/manager for son Randy) over. We got him some sparring partners. Then, he found out he didn't want to be a fighter.

"So there we were, needing a fighter again. The best fighters I knew were my brothers, but they were too old. We went to my nephews. They are tough, but their parents wouldn't let them fight. Finally, we found Harry Kazandjian, an Armenian lightweight whose contract I bought for $100."

Kazandjian was a Rolls-Royce salesman who made two very successful career shifts in succession. He had seven fights and wound up with a 5-0-2 record. Still, he knew an easier way to make a living. Today, he's back selling Rolls-Royces again.

"He chose making the easier bucks instead of pounding out the small ones," Joe said. "I was the loneliest trainer in town. I was ready to grab the gardener down the street. You've heard of starting at the bottom. We practically started underground."

Next step was to build the one-room, wooden-frame building that now houses their gym. And soon, it was filled.

It may be as incongruous a sight as there is in boxing. Outside, you are on a typical San Fernando Valley residential street. But walk inside and you would swear you were in the Main Street Gym or the Kronk Gym or some other famous training ground for fighters. The obligatory ring, heavy bag and punching bag are there along with the fight posters on the wall.

And the fighters on display. The Goossens have come a long way since Nacho came over from the car wash.

Today, Ten Goose Boxing can boast of:

--Alonzo Strongbow of Sepulveda, owner of a 19-7-1 record. He is the North American Boxing Federation flyweight champion and has a fight in Panama next month that could give him a shot at the World Boxing Assn. flyweight championship.

--Frankie Duarte of Venice, 35-5. He is 3-0 in his comeback under the Goossens after a three-year layoff and is waiting for final approval of a non-title fight in April in Sacramento against Richie Sandoval, the WBA bantamweight champ.

--Michael Nunn, now living in North Hollywood after moving from Davenport, Iowa. An alternate in the 1984 Olympic Games in the middleweight division, Nunn is 2-0 as a professional after amassing a 168-8 mark as an amateur.

--Walter Sims of North Hollywood by way of Cleveland. A lightweight, he is 15-1-2 and has served as a sparring partner for Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini.

--Jon Russell of North Hollywood. The lightweight moved here from Illinois and is 2-0 in his brief professional career.

A look at Joe Goossen's schedule shows just how busy Ten Goose is these days. He will be in Nunn's Country Club corner on Mar. 26th, fly to Panama for the Strongbow fight at the end of the month, then hop back on a plane to be in Sacramento April 2 if the Sandoval-Duarte fight comes off.

"I had my doubts at first," Joe said of the Ten Goose operation. "We had never done this before and I was wondering what it would take besides hard work. I realize now how much harder we have to work to make it go. There's an everyday grind in the gym."

With so many fighters, each on a different schedule, Joe finds himself in the gym every day of the week. And the last few days--or weeks--before a fight, the fighter moves in with Joe so his daily regimen can be even more closely monitored.

"That's not really hard for me," he added. "We want to give our fighters every opportunity to win. The toughest part for me is if we lose. Fortunately, we don't do that too often.

"This is my sanctuary," he said, pointing to the gym. "This is what I've always wanted. I forget all my problems when I come to the gym. It's like being on a Little League team again, working with everyone. It's more than family here. Everyone here is family. And that's sincere."

Said Dan, "What's taken others 30 to 40 years, we've done in a very short time. I eat, sleep and drink boxing 24 hours a day. It's my love affair and it had better be our fighters' love affair. We won't accept anything else."

It's not always a love affair. The Goossens have just settled a dispute with welterweight Dennis Mulholland, who wanted out of his contract because he felt his career wasn't moving fast enough under Ten Goose. There have been other disputes with fighters over contracts. Others have been turned out for not being good enough.

"I've gotten tougher," Dan said. "The more successful you are, the more people want to take things away from you. There are some people who feel you have to be scum and lie to be successful in this business. I don't like that. I don't feel you have to be that way to make it in this business, to survive. I'm not going to change my personality. I want to have fun. There are some honest people in this business. Those are the ones I want to stay with."

It's hard to have fun when you're losing money, and that has also been a problem for Ten Goose. Although he refused to reveal how much his operation has lost, Dan said it was "a great deal."

"You can't have a business like this without putting a lot into it," he added.

Los Angeles promoter Don Fraser, a longtime boxing figure in town, admires the Goossens' efforts.

"They are a breath of fresh air," he said. "I'll tell you, they would have never made it in those old Edward G. Robinson movies, not with the 'dems' and 'dos' guys with the cigars in their mouths. This is something new, something the fight game needs.

"You know they are not in it for the money. They are certainly not making any money. Not one of them is making a living at it. But they are putting money into it for the young kids who want to fight. They watch their fighters. They try to match them up with the right guys. They could be an influence in boxing in Southern California in a short time. They are good people."

And close. So close. The 10 children have been augmented with 21 grandchildren and all live within a three-mile radius.

As the Goossens arrive at their gym, the first thing each does is walk over to their father and kiss him on the cheek. It seems an unlikely move for these grown men, many of whom exude a feeling of toughness from years spent around the fight game.

But Al Goossen has always stressed this strange mixture of tenderness for the family with toughness for the rest of the world.

"They would kill somebody for each other," he said, glancing around the room at a handful of his boys.

He knows about such things. He has a scrapbook from his days with the Los Angeles police. He was asked about one picture showing him escorting a suspect.

"That man pulled a gun and tried to shoot me in the stomach," the senior Goossen said.

The suspect in the picture is covered with welts and bruises. Goossen was asked how that happened.

"We were trying to get him in the car," he said without cracking a smile, "but the car door was closed."

Goossen is proud of his own past, but he seems even prouder of his sons' future.

"They will take only quality fighters here," he said. "If a guy doesn't have potential, they won't take him. We don't want a meat market here."

Casey Stengel couldn't have said it any better.

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