|Goossen Paves the Road to Boxing in Paradise - The Road to St. Lucia Part One
INTERVIEW By Gabriel Montoya (Oct 30, 2007) Doghouse Boxing
As a boxing promoter for over twenty-five years, Dan Goossen has seen it all and improved on it along the way. He revolutionized the sport back in the late 80’s by negotiating a multi-fight, multi-million dollar contract for then IBF middleweight champion Michael Nunn with casino magnate Steve Wynn. The groundbreaking deal made Nunn an exclusive fighter of the Mirage Hotel and Casino. That type of exclusivity soon became the model for other noted promoters, and paved the way toward many of boxing’s super fights. Now, Goossen plans to innovate once again as he teams with Showtime, BET, and St.
Lucia’s Minister of Tourism Allen Chastanet, to bring boxing fans ‘Showtime in Paradise’ on November 16, featuring 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Ward, 13-0 (8), versus Roger Cantrell, 12-0 (8), on the island of St. Lucia.
“The key for me as a promoter normally,“ Goossen says. “I go in there, whether it’s Caesar’s Palace, Mandalay Bay, Home Depot Center, Staples, I go in there and really my concentration is on selling that event. Selling the fight. I do it in the support of the casino or the free-standing building. In this case, it’s a little different. Not only am I selling a fight, I am selling what I believe in.”
That something is the beautiful island nation of St. Lucia, located in the eastern Caribbean. Known as ‘Helen of the West Indies’, St. Lucia is home to lush tropical rainforests, the world’s only drive-in Volcano, and the towering Pitons that dominate the skyline from the sea. It’s most famous for the annual St. Lucia Jazz Festival it has hosted for the past sixteen years. Now Goossen and Chastanet hope to begin another annual tradition: world-class boxing. “This is a big turning point in the history if St. Lucia,” says Chastanet. “St. Lucia has all the credentials of being a great place to go to.”
“We are known for our honeymoons. Honeymoons and weddings,” explains Chastanet. An idyllic setting for that fantasy
beach wedding, St. Lucia averaged nearly ten weddings a day in 2006. But with new investors, including five out of the six major hotel chains like Ritz Carlton building new properties, St. Lucia is about to get a lot more people looking for it on the map. In the next few years, hall of fame golfers Jack Nicklaus, Ernie Ells, Greg Norman, and Arnold Palmer all will be integral in the building of new golf courses on the island. In addition, St. Lucia has received the go-ahead to begin legalized casino gambling. “Our first casino will be opening in the next two to three years,” says Chastanet. If all that doesn’t convince you there is one more reason to see this Caribbean eden for yourself, last year, Oprah Winfrey said, “St. Lucia is one of the five places you have to go see before you die.” With endorsements like that it’s going to be easier and easier to make plans for November.
The event will also be coinciding with the inaugural American Airlines non-stop service from New York to St. Lucia on Thursday, November 15. “We presently have American out of Miami and Delta out of Atlanta, but we are now going to get American non-stop out of New York,” says Chastanet, “And we are looking to be growing that into daily service.”
The fight card will be held at the Beausejour Cricket Stadium in Gros Islet. “It normally seats about 15,000,” explains Chastanet, “but with the help of Showtime, we will convert it to about 5000. It will be filled with St. Lucian music and reggae, with all the foods and flavors of the Caribbean. So it won’t be like the typical fights you see. We’re going to put a Caribbean twist on it.”
The seeds of this promotion were planted earlier this year in a conversation between Chastanet and Executive Vice-President and General Manager of BET Networks Paxton Baker. “In meeting with Paxton,” says Chastanet, “we felt that we needed something exciting to bring people to St. Lucia and tell the world that [it] is a changed place. When ‘Showtime in Paradise’ came up, we agreed it was a tremendous idea.”
Baker has for years been involved in the St. Lucia Jazz Festival. Once the idea was formed, he connected him with Goossen. The two hit it off immediately. “Very quickly,” says Chastanet, “a meeting with Dan was set up and we all agreed that there was some synergy here.” Of Chastanet Goossen would say, “The country just idolizes and respects him. He’s a great leader, a visionary. He has great plans for us.”
Once the partnership was forged the search for the right fight card in this gorgeous setting began. Goossen didn’t have to look very far. Designed to showcase boxing’s stars of tomorrow Showtime’s Shobox series seemed the perfect place to begin. Shobox’s mission is to feature young fighters making the difficult step from prospect to contender, often by pitting two undefeated fighters in crossroads matches where the risk is equal to the potential reward. Ward vs. Cantrell certainly fits that bill. “Having the 2004 U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Ward on the card is exactly what this series is all about,” says Goossen, who has helped guide Ward to his current position as one of the top super middleweight prospects in the world. Ward is coming off a spectacular third-round technical knockout of Francisco Diaz last July. “It’s very exciting to be featured in a fight and event of this magnitude,” says the ever-humble Ward. I’m looking forward to starting things in St. Lucia off with a bang.”
He isn’t alone in his excitement as Cantrell, fresh of a fourth-round TKO of Jonathon Corn in June, will be Ward’s stiffest test yet. “I’m coming to win. This is huge opportunity for me fighting on Shobox in St. Lucia. I plan to make the most of it.”
Also on the card will be heavyweight knockout artist Chris Arreola, 22-0 (20) versus Teke Oruh, 14-0 (6).
Ultimately, Goossen and Chastanet dream of building a celebration of their two respective passions boxing and St. Lucia that boxing fans and world travelers can enjoy for years to come. The plan is for this initial card to lead to higher stakes bouts as the event progresses year to year. “This isn’t a one shot deal,” says Goossen, “This is part of a three part process that we hope leads to a world championship fight in the third year.”
“This isn’t just about a fight we’re promoting in November,” says Goossen. “This is about something much bigger than that. That’s why it’s important to keep it going and make it successful.” Adds a hopeful Chastanet, “Now when it comes to November you will always think of boxing in St. Lucia.”
For travel and ticket info contact The St. Lucia Tourist Board Vide Boutielle, Castries, St. Lucia. Tel. 758-452-4094 email: email@example.com.
In the coming days, look for Gabriel’s in depth interviews with both Roger Cantrell, Andre Ward and Ward trainer Virgil Hunter as Montoya’s series ‘The Road to St. Lucia’ continues.
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