By Fiona Manning
When promoter Dan Goossen was looking for someone to act as a Spanish translator and media liaison officer for his burgeoning boxing enterprise Goossen Tutor Promotions, he reached back into the future and selected boxing legend, former WBC super feather weight champion, Gabriel Ruelas to take the reins.
It’s a move that has the busy and extremely productive Goossen smiling. Not only do he and Gabe go back 20 years in boxing, but they consider themselves family.
For Gabe, it’s still the school of hard knocks because as he put it, “I had no idea what it takes to put on a fight. The people who buy their tickets and show up ringside have absolutely no clue how much is involved.”
“Actually it’s the same with prize fighters,” said Dan. “People have no idea what it takes for a fighter to prepare for a fight.
“Fighters like Gabe and Rafael have that extra ingredient needed, what it takes to become a champion. It’s a combination of a strong work ethic, determination and heart. Without those three things, you don’t have a chance.”
Except for the boxing part, Goossen might well be talking about himself.
“At first I thought, ‘Can I do this? Do I have to know all this? Why do I have to know this?’ Gabe said. “Dan says I have to be able to do it all. Now I want to know everything. I want to be involved.”
Dan initially tried to coax Gabe’s brother, the ‘other’ boxing legend, former IBF lightweight champion Rafael Ruelas into the fold.
The Ruelas brothers, two of the most popular fighters in the history of boxing remain only one of four pair of Mexican boxing brothers to achieve world champion status together.
For Goossen however, working Rafael into his promotional stable would ensure longevity for the man still in love with the “Sweet Science” but Rafael balked because after a two year lay-off, he was trying to make a comeback.
Ensconced in his Sherman Oaks offices at the start of a busy work day, Goossen sighed. “I even had the business cards printed up for him,” he said. “But although I worked with both Gabe and Rafael for their entire careers, I really wanted to see them come and work for me.
“Rafael had a shoulder injury for a long time which actually stopped him from making a ring return. I wanted them to get involved in the business side of things but I understood that Rafael and Gabe wanted to try to make a go of boxing again so I waited.”
Rafael’s many outside boxing interests including real estate investments, stock broking and a recent purchase of a Quizno’s outlet, meant that after finally giving up on a comeback, he wasn’t able to commit much time to Goossen Tutor.
Gabe however lost a big fight in March, an eighth round TKO to Courtney Burton after three decision victories so Goossen was able to persuade him to come on board.
Dan and Gabe met 20 years ago some of the story is the stuff of legend: at the age of 12, Gabe met Dan’s brother, trainer Joe Goossen when he was selling candy door to door.
When the small Ruelas brothers showed up at the Ten Goose gym in Van Nuys, they pestered Joe to buy more than chocolate. They wanted to learn how to fight and the three men went on to become as close as father and sons as well as trainer and champions.
“For Joe, these kids were beyond family,” said Dan. “He told me when Gabe was 13 that this kid was going to be a world champion. I said, ‘Get back to me when he’s a pro.’ I never saw him fight as an amateur, but when I saw him fight as a pro, then I knew that every word Joe said about Gabe and Rafael was true.”
Gabe, who moved into Goossen Tutor’s offices a month ago, started working in the field, going to gyms, translating for the company’s rapidly increasing celebrity stable including new signee, former champion Willie Jorrin.
“When Rafael made a commitment in the direction of real estate and Gabe suddenly became free, I scooped him right up,” said Dan.
“He’s going to be doing everything from translating for fighters, especially in Mexico. He’s going to be doing everything from A to Z, from the ground up, from hanging banners to PR.”
“I have to know how to do everything,” said Gabe. “Making a fight happen is a production. I honestly had no idea. I wanted to stay in the business and for me this is perfect because I am at all the fights and I am right there with the fighters. I want to help.”
For Goossen, having someone of Gabe’s caliber is definitely a coup. Not only does he care about visiting fighters feeling comfortable, it’s an extension of his commitment to the men who give their life’s blood in the ring.
Blood is what it’s all about for the Goossen and Ruelas families. Dan promomted the fight for which Joe worked the corner when Gabe fought Jimmy Garcia. A fight that unfortunately and horribly, ended in Garcia’s death.
It is something all the men involved still feel keenly. It is something that has deeply etched their psyche, so their commitment to the fighters they work with is especially fierce.
A little known fact in the boxing community is that Goossen carries more than the legally-required fight insurance.
“When you’ve had a fighter die on your watch, you don’t penny pinch,” he said. “We have a responsibility to the fighters. Last week when I had a fight in Chicago with Bobby Hitz, state law there doesn’t even require an ambulance to be ringside but I paid for it myself.”
Dan and Gabe have a healthy mutual respect and yes love, borne of a long friendship in and out of the ropes but at the end of the day, Goossen is a pragmatist.
“Boxing is my family business. There’s my son Craig and Tom Brown my matchmaker and brother-in-law, now Gabe, but when it’s all said and done, it’s about performing. We’ve all got a job to perform. No matter how much love there is we have to produce.”