Dan Goossen, the larger-than-life boxing promoter who worked with numerous top fighters and champions during his decades-long career, died early Monday after a short battle with liver cancer, the family announced. He was 64.
"It is with overwhelming regret that we announce the passing of Dan Goossen, 64, from complications relating to liver cancer," the family said in a statement. "The sudden news of his diagnosis was very much a private matter and his final days were spent surrounded by his family and closest friends.
"Sadness is difficult to escape as we grieve his passing, however we are filled with pride by the fact that Dan Goossen battled this aggressive illness with boundless strength and the last days of his life were fought and lived with unflinching bravery, pure love and grace beyond measure."
The news came as a shock to the boxing community because few knew he had been ill. Goossen, who would have been 65 on Friday, did not learn of his illness until Labor Day. He had surgery a few days later at a Los Angeles-area hospital and never left before his death.
"Dan Goossen was an absolute titan in the boxing industry and a great friend to ESPN," said ESPN boxing programmer Brian Kweder, who worked on many shows with Goossen, including one of the network's biggest fights in years, the May 10 heavyweight title bout between Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola. "He was the mastermind behind bringing the world heavyweight championship to the masses via ESPN back in May. He will be sorely missed."
Goossen was involved in many major fights through the years. He started promoting fights through his original company, Ten Goose Boxing -- named in honor of the fact he was one of 10 brothers and sisters, some of whom were involved in the sport -- then with now-defunct America Presents and in recent years with his Sherman Oaks, California-based company, Goossen Tutor Promotions (which had recently been renamed Goossen Promotions).
His first champions included Michael Nunn, Hall of Famer Terry Norris and brothers Gabriel and Rafael Ruelas. Later Goossen promoted fighters such as Mike Tyson, David Tua, James Toney, Paul Williams, Bernard Hopkins, Lance Whitaker, Joel Casamayor and David Reid, the 1996 Olympic gold medalist who was the first big signing for America Presents and went on to win a junior middleweight world title in a career cut short by an eye injury.
After Floyd Mayweather Jr. split from Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, for whom Goossen once worked, Goossen promoted two Mayweather fights, in 2005 against Sharmba Mitchell and 2006 against Carlos Baldomir.
Goossen's most significant fighters in recent years were heavyweight contender Arreola and super middleweight champion Andre Ward, although Ward is trying to break his contract with Goossen and has been inactive while pursuing litigation.
Despite their fractured relationship, Ward offered his condolences.
"I was deeply saddened to learn the news of Dan Goossen's passing early this morning," he said. "My thoughts and prayers have been with Dan and his family since I received the news of his illness last week. While Dan and I recently had our professional struggles, he was a great man, father and husband. He will be greatly missed by the boxing community. I will continue to keep the Goossen family in my prayers."
Those who knew Goossen knew him as an outgoing man with a giant personality and a passion for boxing.
"Dan was a blast, bigger than life. I actually thought he could have been the best PR man in boxing history," said Fred Sternburg, who worked as the publicist for America Presents from 1998 to 2002. "I get a lot of credit for ideas that he gave me. I may have carried the ball, but he came up with a lot of it.
"He did a lot and promoted a lot of great fighters and fights. He was good at resurrecting guys. He did it with James Toney and he deserves a lot of credit for what Andre Ward has become. He was a very persuasive guy. I never saw him give up on anything."
Besides his involvement in boxing, Goossen was the longtime agent for Pete Rose, who was his close friend. He also represented bouncer-turned-actor Mr. T during the height of his career in the 1980s.
Goossen, who was quick with a joke and never met a brightly colored suit he didn't like, was one of the few promoters who maintained a strong relationship with both HBO and Showtime.
"Everyone at HBO Sports is saddened by the sudden loss of Dan Goossen," HBO Sports president Ken Hershman said in a statement. "Dan was a dedicated boxing promoter who we worked closely with for many, many years on some of the most important fights in the sport.
"But what was even more impressive was his total commitment to his family, who were always right by his side during fight week or wherever his business required him to be. Our prayers and thoughts are with his wife, Debbie, and the entire Goossen family."
When Hershman used to run the boxing franchise at Showtime, he and Goossen worked closely during the Super Six World Boxing Classic, which Ward won before moving over to HBO, where Hershman had begun working.
"All of us at Showtime are deeply saddened by the passing of Dan Goossen," Showtime Sports executive vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza said in a statement. "This news has come as a shock to many of us who knew Dan personally, beyond our collaborative work on boxing events, for decades. We will remember Dan as a passionate advocate for the sport of boxing, a fun-loving colleague and friend, and, above all, a devoutly religious family man. Our deepest sympathies to the entire Goossen family. May he rest in peace."
Goossen is survived his wife and their two sons, Max and Rex, as well as two sons from a previous marriage, Craig and Chris. He is also survived by eight of his brothers and sisters, including famed boxing trainer Joe Goossen. Older brother Greg Goossen, who died in 2011, played Major League Baseball from 1965 to 1970, mainly for the New York Mets.
The family said funeral arrangements are pending and that details will be announced in the next few days.