A long-awaited investigative report by the New York Office of the Inspector General described the state agency that regulates boxing — and, soon, mixed martial arts — as an organizational mess, short on proper practices and procedures but long on conflicts of interest and other improprieties.
Among its findings, the investigation into the State Athletic Commission determined that Thomas Hoover, its chairman for the last year, had allowed friends and relatives to obtain credentials that granted them free access to high-profile boxing matches. It also said that Mr. Hoover had recommended a personal friend for an important athletic commission position even though he knew the friend was not qualified.
The State Athletic Commission’s “lack of appropriate emergency medical protocols and oversight procedures, as well as clear conflicts of interest among senior staff, reflect a systemic breakdown of its most basic operations,” the inspector general, Catherine Leahy Scott, said Monday. “With the commission’s critical oversight of boxing and, now, mixed martial arts in New York State, it is imperative that all commissioners and staff adopt necessary reforms and adhere to the highest standards of ethical conduct and professionalism.”
New York’s State Department, which oversees the athletic commission, issued an immediate response late Monday afternoon, saying that Mr. Hoover had offered his resignation, which was accepted.
Mr. Hoover could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The department said that it had taken a number of recent regulatory actions to implement many of the inspector general’s recommendations for reform and that more would follow.
“Fighter safety and the integrity of combative sports in New York State remain our top priorities,” a department spokesman, Laz Benitez, said in a prepared statement.
The inspector general’s report comes two months after the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo abruptly replaced the athletic commission’s executive director, David Berlin, a lawyer appointed two years earlier to help reform the long-troubled agency. In fact, Mr. Berlin had been among those reporting Mr. Hoover’s problematic actions to the inspector general.
Mr. Berlin told The New York Times last month that he believed he was let go precisely because he was a hard-nosed reformer dealing with a calcified, ethically challenged agency. The administration, meanwhile, said in a statement that its decision was warranted.
The inspector general’s investigation began as an inquiry into a calamitous boxing match at Madison Square Garden in November 2013 between two heavyweights, Mike Perez and Magomed Abdusalamov. The inspector general found wholesale deficiencies in the athletic commission’s handling of the event, including its tactical emergency plans and its training of boxing inspectors and other employees.
According to investigators, these shortcomings were tragically highlighted by the medical treatment — or the lack of medical treatment — received by the fight’s loser, Mr. Abdusalamov, as he exhibited signs of sickness and trauma in his locker room after the fight.
The report said the athletic commission failed to provide adequate written and oral interpretation services for Mr. Abdusalamov, a Russian boxer then 32, and his team. For another, the Abdusalamov team remained unaware of two ambulances at the arena that were available to take him to a hospital. Instead, Matthew Farrago, the boxing inspector assigned to Mr. Abdusalamov, directed the fighter’s team to the corner of Eighth Avenue and 33rd Street, where they could find a taxi.
The boxer began vomiting outside while his panicked handlers struggled to find a taxi that would take him to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital on the Upper West Side. A few hours later, Mr. Abdusalamov had a stroke while in a medically induced coma. He is now speechless, partly paralyzed and in need of round-the-clock care, and his family has sued the athletic commission.
The inspector general’s report said the commission’s chief medical officer, Dr. Barry Jordan, “bears some of the responsibility for the confusion that followed after Abdusalamov became ill outside the arena.” Over all, the report said, the commission “failed to carry out its responsibilities prior to, during and after the bout.”
The report also explored the ethical improprieties within the commission. It noted that a promoter had given eight bottles of red wine to the commission’s staff around Christmastime in 2013 and that Melvina Lathan, Mr. Hoover’s predecessor as leader of the commission, and other staff members had received jewelry from promoters.
As for Mr. Hoover, the report said that while chairman of the commission, he sought credentials for his son — using the son’s first and middle names, Jason Scott, but not including his surname — to attend boxing matches at least twice, including once when the son brought a friend. It said that Mr. Hoover “disingenuously represented” both men as potential boxing inspectors and later acknowledged that the only qualification they had to become inspectors was that they were both “big guys.”
In another case, Mr. Hoover tried to hire his friend Ronald J. Abraham Jr. as a boxing judge — even though Mr. Abraham’s application made clear that he had no experience in that critical job. The application submitted to the commission included a handwritten cover note from Mr. Hoover.
When Mr. Berlin and another boxing official saw Mr. Abraham’s unfamiliar name on a list of judges, they began to inquire, and they learned from another commission employee that Mr. Hoover had directed that his friend be licensed as a judge.
Mr. Hoover later said that it was a mistake of paperwork and that Mr. Abraham was applying to be a boxing inspector — a position for which he was also unqualified.