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Q ‘n’ A With NYSAC Boss Hoover

Michael Woods

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The only two certainties in life are change, and death. Sorry, readers, to send such a blunt memo…

They say taxes are non-negotiable, but many a man has stood on principle, refused to pay the man, and seen Uncle Sam boot his butt into a cell.

Changes happen, always.

So it was in the New York region, as a new boss was named by the Governor to head up the New York State Athletic Commission. Tom Hooper is the new chairman.

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Melvina Lathan headed it up, starting in August 2008, and then David Berlin was steering the ship, day to day, from March 2014 onward.

Hooper, age 74, is now the chairman, and Berlin, a highly regarded NY-based attorney, is the executive director.

Quick blast on Hoover. He is known as a “basketball guy,” not a boxing guy. First hint of that comes from him standing 6-9. Hoover, a DC native, attended Villanova, and was a first round pick, No. 6 overall, in 1963, to the NY Knicks. The center played for them, then the St. Louis Hawks, and then bounced a minor league, before jumping to the American Basketball Association. Hoover played for the Denver, Houston, and Minnesota teams. He suited up for the NJ Nets in 1969, and finished up wearing high tops in 1970. Sometime, we will collect some stories from his post-hoops stint as road manager for Richard Pryor, the supremely talented and often times erratic comic.

I posed some queries to Hooper, to get a better sense of who he is, and what he wants to accomplish. He comes to the position not long after the tragic injury to heavyweight Magomed Abdusalamov, so the atmosphere is charged in a certain way. The Russian boxer faced off with Mike Perez in December 2013, and was still winging hard punches in the last second of the last round. But he suffered brain trauma, and almost died. Mago is today back with his wife and children, and working to rehabilitate his body and mind as best he can.

Word on the street is that Hoover is a different personality type than Lathan, who conjures abiding love from the rank and file she championed, and Berlin, a low key and rational sort not prone to power-tripping, and so people are still getting used to the shift in temperament.

 

Question to Hooper by Michael Woods: The NYSAC seems to be in a place of transition. You are now on board…for those unfamiliar with the setup of the commission, what is your title, what do you do?

Answer from Hooper: I was nominated by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to be Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission and confirmed by the State Senate on June 16, 2015. As the Chair of the three-person Commission, I, along with the other Commissioners, set policy to advance the Commission’s core functions, which are to regulate the sport, to oversee boxing events, and to make certain that medical and safety precautions are in place to protect the health of fighters.

Q) Tell us about yourself. What do you bring to the table?

A) I bring a history of public service and governmental experience, as well as knowledge of the sport, to the Commission. I served as a Chief Inspector and Assistant Deputy Commissioner for the Commission in the ‘80s and ‘90s, where I supervised fight cards, evaluated and approved boxer-manager contracts, coordinated television production work, and negotiated contracts with promoters on behalf of the State. Additionally, I’ve been a longtime advocate for boxers and have conducted sessions in educating boxers on how to adjust to life outside the ring once their career is over. I testified before a U.S. Senate Committee and Senator John McCain in 1997, prior to passage of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act. This practical experience and knowledge will no doubt help me in aiding the Commission meet its function.

Q) What is the state of boxing in NY? How does the commission help the sport?

A) The state of boxing in New York State is healthy and exciting fights are taking place in this great state. Over the last few years, we have seen a resurgence of boxing in New York and the Commission is encouraged by the interest in the sport here. Already, over 40 cards have taken place in the State this year, featuring some of the best fighters from New York and all around the world. The Commission’s goals are clear: promoting health and safety, ensuring that all events are handled professionally, and creating a regulatory atmosphere that fosters the best of boxing in New York State.

Q) What does you and the Commission want to do moving into 2016?

A) The New York State Athletic Commission will continue to build upon the success the Commission has enjoyed thus far in 2015 and looks forward to bringing the sport to even greater heights in New York State for fighters, fan and the entire New York boxing community.

Q) I heard that you have a new rule…no shouting instruction from the corner during bouts. Is this true? If yes, what is the reasoning for that?

A) This is not a new rule. Since 1991, as part of the Commission’s regulations, the rule against seconds coaching fighters during a round has been on the books. Specifically, NYCRR §210.16 states: “Conduct of seconds. No second shall coach any of the boxers during the progress of any round, and shall remain seated during each round.”

The New York rule’s language is very similar to the New Jersey rule (N.J.A.C. 13:46-7.3), which states, “No second may coach any of the boxers during the progress of any round.” By comparison, California and Nevada have rules that limit the prohibited conduct to “excessive” coaching by seconds.

Noting these differences, the Commission’s staff and I are looking at the current rule and evaluating our approach to it in light of common practice in the sport today. As always, we want the best for the sport, and we want to convey that with clear rules that are easily understood and evenly applied.

Q) You traveled far and wide in your basketball career…Surely that widened your world view. Care to share your best ABA story with NY Fights readers?

A) I remember many interesting stories from my ABA days. For example, when playing for the New York Nets in the Long Island Arena during the 1968/1969 season, my teammates and I would slip all over the court as there was water all over the floor due to the fact that it was also the home of the Long Island Ducks of the Eastern Hockey League and the ice would seep through. The heaters in the arena didn’t work and there was no hot water to take showers, so it was always an adventure. And there was the time that I was playing for the Houston Mavericks under Coach Slater Martin and at the end of one game, management told me I wouldn’t be getting paid because the team was folding and I was being shipped to Minnesota.

And one non-ABA story, but it is boxing-related. I was Wilt Chamberlain’s manager when there was talk of a fight between him and Muhammad Ali. I kept telling Dip, as I and a few others called him, that he could win. He just needed to use his height to keep Ali away. One day, I was at Madison Square Garden, where Ali was training for an upcoming fight and as Ali was finishing up some shadow-boxing in the ring, he spotted me standing by the ring and started shouting, “there is Wilt’s spy,” over and over. Ali continued, “I know you and him are scared…scared I’m going to kill him. No basketball player can beat me and you came here to spy on me. Well, I am going to give you something to take back to him.” With that, Ali jumped out of the ring and came towards me, and in a matter of seconds, threw about 15 jabs that came within an inch of my nose as he shouted to take that back to Wilt. Needless to say, I went back to Dip and told him he’s going to kill you, but we can still get this money. But of course, the fight never came off. But Dip really thought that he could beat Ali.

 

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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