Woodland Hills Fight Card Could Have Used Three Rings : Boxing: Goossen awarded split decision. Seating problems mar Marriott show.


A night that started in controversy ended the same way Wednesday at the Warner Center Marriott.

P.J. Goossen, who grew up in North Hollywood and now resides in Palmdale was awarded a split decision over Irish Pat Lawlor in a 10-round superwelterweight bout.

The judges' scores were widely divergent. One had it 98-92 in favor of Lawlor. The other two had Goossen winning, 97-93 and 96-95.

Goossen, who is trained by his father, Pat, improved to 13-0 in his first main-event victory. Lawlor, whose victories include decisions over champions Wilfredo Benitez and Robert Duran, fell to 20-6.

"I thought I dominated every round except for maybe one or two," P.J. Goossen said. "I don't know what the one judge was thinking. Maybe he's Irish."

A victory over an experienced veteran like the 30-year old Lawlor should give Goossen, 25, a boost.

"It catapults me up to fighting tougher opponents and getting more fights. And maybe some bigger money--what we're all in this for."

Professional boxing's first excursion into the upscale surroundings of a West Valley ballroom was, in attendance, an overwhelming success.

Too much of a success.

Fight organizers reported 1,204 seats inside, and all of them were filled. Problem was, they were in a different configuration than what had been anticipated.

The fire marshal saw to that.

The last-minute change in seating led to mass confusion. Some fans were required to change seats while dozens of others were kept in the lobby while organizers searched for open places.

During the second bout of the five-fight card, the crowd outside the facility's doors swelled to nearly 100, many of whom were trying to re-enter after visiting the restrooms.

After that bout, ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. told the crowd that the fire marshal was stopping the action until fans outside the room could be seated.

"Your seat may be taken if you're not in it," he calmly added.

Peter Broudy, the card's promoter, offered full refunds to the dissatisfied who reported to a bar outside within a 10-minute span.

Broudy estimated that more than 300 fans took him up on the offer.

Dan Lewis, an attorney who attended the fights with four friends and a client, was among those who demanded their money. "We had planned a nice evening," Lewis said. "Well, the dinner was nice."

Another man in Lewis' party said he had a ticket in Section 1, Row 6. "But Section 1 had only five rows," he said.

Don Dontco, another fight fan in a party of six, said he had never seen anything like the confusion that occurred.

"The Country Club was never like this," he said. The Country Club in Reseda regularly hosted professional boxing cards until earlier this year.

Lennon, who is following in the footsteps of his father, a ring legend, said he had never been in a similar situation.

"I've done a lot of fights," he said. "And this is a first."

Brian Nadley, a hotel catering executive, said hotel officials would meet this morning to discuss whether future boxing events would be held in the ballroom.

"Obviously, the response was phenomenal," Nadley said. "I'm sure it was a success from the standpoint of making money. But obviously, if we do this again, we're going to have to have a seating arrangement that's closer to scale."

Broudy said the event was not oversold. "I pulled the seats," he said. "But the configuration was changed. That was the problem."

In undercard bouts, Santiago Negro Franco of Torreon, Mexico, won a majority decision over Juan West of Riverside in a welterweight fight; Anthony Johnson of Los Angeles won a unanimous decision over Tony West of Bermuda Dunes in a junior-welterweight bout, and Obed Sullivan of Lancaster knocked out Jim Mullen of Simi Valley at 2:15 of the fifth round in their heavyweight match.

P.J. Goossen of Palmdale was scheduled to face Irish Pat Lawlor of San Francisco in the main event, which had not started at press time.

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