ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — I knew I’d be posing a somewhat confrontational question at today’s “media roundtable”: “Why isn’t Paul Williams a bigger star?” But then, maybe I also could have approached it better, too.
I asked it of Dan Goossen, who, as Williams’ promoter, has it in his job description to make Williams as big a star as he can be. Perhaps I should have realized, then, how much asking it so directly would irritate him. I did not; it was a lot.
That said, it ended up being a pretty good interview, if I don’t say so myself.
Goossen’s initial response to my question: “Why aren’t you at the Los Angeles Times?”
Me: (dumbfounded look)
“That’s the stupidest question I could ever imagine.”
Me: “How so?”
“I think the question shows a lack of knowledge on boxing. How many years did it take Hagler to become a superstar?”
Me: “A long time.”
“How many years did Mayweather complain about it?… In boxing, it takes years to be a superstar.”
Me: (writing all this down)
“I’m not sure why you’re even writing it down. It’s so obvious. You can’t do it without a defining fight. It’s only been two years since he regained his title from Carlos Quintana. Since then, he’s been getting some pretty big shows and some pretty big paydays. I’m not sure how many more millions he could be making. Other than major pay-per-view fights, he’s been at the highest levels of the sport.”
Me: “Why have this show in Atlantic City?”
“Are you asking because you don’t know?”
Me: “Yesterday in New York, you talked about how Paul was big on the West Coast. I was hoping you could elaborate on what you said about wanting to build him up on the East Coast.”
“OK, so you do know something about this. One of the reasons was to build up support on the East Coast.” Goossen said members of the press told him “how pleasurable it was to interview [Williams] personally.”
At this point, with things going so swimmingly, I decided to try to hit the reset button, since we’d gotten off on the wrong foot. (Goossen: “I didn’t get off on the wrong foot.” Me: “I meant, collectively, we’re not on the right foot.”) I explained that one of the good things about being a blogger is that I could express my opinion, and my opinion was that Williams was a special fighter. I’m here because I want to give him attention on that count. But there are critics who say he doesn’t sell tickets, pointing to the Winky Wright show, even though I know you didn’t want the fight in Las Vegas – Winky did.
“That’s true. It was the wrong place for the right fight.” But Williams does sell tickets, Goossen said.
“Margarito had no history of selling tickets. For the Antonio Margarito fight, we sold out the Home Depot Center.”
Me: “Wasn’t some of that Mexican-American fans?”
“It was both. Mexican fans will also buy tickets to see someone get his butt kicked… The only fight that hasn’t sold was the Winky Wright show. Otherwise, every show he’s been in has done at least a respectable number. As it relates to this show, we have 300 tickets left. No one thought we would do 3,00 tickets on a short turnaround.”
I never mentioned the name of middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, whose name had annoyed Goossen every time it came up at the news conference yesterday. Pavlik pulled out of the fight, leaving Williams to fight Sergio Martinez Saturday. “Pavlik was always secondary to us.”
I said, agreed. HBO likes Paul, and the money they offered Pavlik made him take the risk of fighting him. But that’s why this is such a central question: I think Williams should be fighting people like Mayweather, Pacquiao, Mosley, and Mayweather has said Williams isn’t a big enough star to fight him. Boxers will risk losing if the money is big enough.
Not true, Goossen said, bringing up Mosley. “We offered him millions of dollars to fight [Williams] on premium TV. We offered Mosley $4 million after his fight with Margarito. He got less than 50 percent that in his last fight. And I can tell you he’s not going to make $4 million to fight Berto. That tells everyone everything they need to know. We’re on HBO, and look at what Pavlik is going to do now – he’s set to fight on a Latin Fury show.”
OK, I said. Thanks for talking to me.
He finished: “Things are getting bigger and better for Paul Williams. No one can use that excuse that there’s no money to fight him.”
They may not have been the only possible answers to my question, but Goossen offered some were pretty good insights. With that, he patted me on the arm and walked away. I think he hated me less at the end than when we started, if only by a little. (And it could always be worse.)