Good Man Bobby Goodman
by Robert Mladinich from Sweet Science
As much as Bobby Goodman loves his job as Vice-President of Operations for the Florida-based Don King Productions (DKP), he was glad to be back in his native New York during the first week of January.
Goodman was preparing for the January 7 doubleheader at Madison Square Garden featuring Jean-Marc Mormeck vs. O’Neil Bell and Zab Judah vs. Carlos Baldomir.
“It’s always good to be back home,” said Goodman, who has resided in Florida for 11 years but is soon closing on a house in New Jersey so he and his wife Kathleen can be closer to their four daughters and five grandchildren. “I’m a dyed in the wool New Yorker. I was conceived at Grossingers.”
Grossingers, which was located in the Catskill Mountains, was a famous resort where many top fighters trained. Goodman’s father Murray, the longtime director of publicity for Madison Square Garden, spent an inordinate amount of time there in an official capacity.
It seems that the eternally youthful Bobby Goodman, who is closing in on 70, has been around the sporting world forever. His love affair with boxing was passed on to him by his father, but fostered by middleweight champion Marcel Cerdan, with whom a pre-pubescent Goodman used to take early morning runs around Grossingers with.
“Marcel turned me into a boxing junkie,” laughed Goodman. “We didn’t speak the same language, but we got along great.” Four months after Cerdan lost his title to Jake LaMotta in June 1949, Cerdan was killed in a plane crash.
In 1962 Goodman began working as a publicist for the New York Titans football team, which later became the New York Jets. Later, he and his father opened an agency that handled publicity for all of Muhammad Ali’s closed-circuit fights.
“I have so many memories of those days,” said Goodman. “There are so many characters in boxing and the stories are endless. You never run out of material.”
Goodman remembers being in Houston in November 1971 for Ali’s NABF title bout against Buster Mathis. In the days leading up to the fight, ticket sales were dismal.
“I said we had to do something, so Ali got real bug-eyed and said we should say he was kidnapped,” laughed Goodman. “Then we’d find him two days before the fight.”
For several years in the late eighties and early nineties, Goodman ran the boxing program at Madison Square Garden, which was eager to sign fighters with championship potential.
Among the local blue-chip prospects that Goodman recruited were Buddy McGirt, Lonnie Bradley, Kevin Kelley, Junior Jones, Tracy Harris Patterson, and Julio Cesar Green.
“There were 17 champions in all,” said Goodman. “I’m very proud of the work that I did there.”
In his current position, Goodman oversees the entire DKP public relations machine, which is handled so adeptly by Alan Hopper, as well as the matchmaking, of which Eric Bottjer does a masterful job, and the myriad of administrative duties associated with shows both large and small.
“In the weeks leading up to a big show like the one we’re doing on [January 7], we’re putting in 20 hour work days,” explained Goodman. “There are so many problems that arise, and they all have to be dealt with immediately. It can be stressful, but we get the job done.”
Goodman, who says he can still get by on just a few hours of sleep per night, marvels at King’s infectious energy.
“He’s amazing,” said Goodman. “Watching him work makes me want to work harder. Don never gets tired. Sometimes he’ll call me at 6 A.M. If I’m asleep, he’ll say, ‘Brother man, sleeping can’t get you nothing but dreams.’”
Almost five years ago, King threw Goodman a 65th birthday party. “We’re getting old,” Goodman said King told him.
Goodman agreed, but added, “The difference is you don’t want to quit until your 90. I want to stop around 70.”
That number is fast approaching , but even though Goodman is moving back up north he still plans on working for King on a part-time basis (If there is such a thing at DKP). The bond between the two is deep and the loyalty palpable even to the most casual observers. .
“Don’s a special guy,” said Goodman. “He gets blamed for everything from the Johnstown Flood to the Burning of Atlanta, but there is no quit in the man. I’ve been with him for many years and never once has he broken his word with me.
“If he gives his word, it’s a done deal. If the playing field was flat, there would be no one else on HBO or Showtime but him. He delivers the goods over and over again.”