By Miles Hilder - 06/10/09 07:15 PM EDT
But nothing could have prepared him for the sucker punch his new boss, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), pulled at a press conference following the Democratic leadership lunch in the Capitol last week.
“Hey, everybody, I’ve got a new intern here. And, you know, I kind of like boxing,” Reid said. “David, here. Come on over here. He’s my new intern. Four-time NCBA lightweight boxing champion. And no one’s ever done it before. University of Nevada. And he — and he’s not punchy — too bad.”
Schacter’s face turned beet-red. Welcome to Washington.
“I was totally surprised. I almost tripped over the rope,” Schacter recalled a day later. “The senator even recognized me when he walked up. He asked me if I was ready to go a few rounds, I said, ‘Yes, sir, always ready.’ Then he put his arm around me and pulled me in front of the media. It still hasn’t sunk in.”
In a town oftentimes chided for nepotism and defined by an “It isn’t what you know but who you know” mentality, Schacter’s new job as an intern in Reid’s office may raise some questions. After all, this is the same Nevada senator who titled his 2008 autobiography The Good Fight and raised some eyebrows by accepting free ringside tickets to three Las Vegas bouts from the Nevada Athletic Commission while considering boxing legislation that affected the agency.
But the 23-year-old Schacter is quick to say this isn’t the case. In fact, it is his respect for Reid that explains why he is in Washington.
After Schacter read the senator’s autobiography, his mother called Reid’s Washington office to try to see if she could get the senator to autograph the book. His mother spoke to an intern, who told her she got the job in Reid’s office by applying online. Schacter had recently returned from a year abroad in China and was looking for a job. Despite having no experience in politics, he researched the internship and applied online as well.
A few months later, Schacter found himself face to face with Reid at an intern orientation session. He used the opportunity to introduce himself.
“He seemed to get excited about the boxing. We talked about [professional boxers Floyd] Mayweather and [Manny] Pacquiao,” Schacter said. “It was pretty light. It was kind of cool — stuff that I’m interested in.”
While much has been made about Reid’s time as an amateur pugilist and boxing judge, Schacter’s career in the ring has been far more storied. Last year he became just the fifth collegiate fighter in National Collegiate Boxing Association history to win four straight titles, closing his collegiate career with a 31-2 record. Schacter said his time in the ring helped foster a mutual respect between Reid and him.
“I asked him about his record, and I’m not sure about this, but he was saying he had a few fights,” Schacter said.
Not unlike Reid’s post as Senate majority leader, boxing can be lonely. Schacter said he appreciates the few, like his new boss, who can relate to the sport’s psychology.
“Boxing is the hardest sport in so many ways,” he said. “You don’t have a teammate — it’s just one on one. If you lose a basketball game, it’s OK. But if you lose a fight that means you got beat up in front of a bunch of people. It’s embarrassing.”
Schacter is in the midst of an eight-week internship at the Senate Democratic Multimedia Center, where he is charged with organizing and setting up events that will be filmed. The work corresponds well with his background in networking — he’s an international-business major who marketed boxing trinkets while living in China and spent a semester in Bangkok shacked up with the Thai Olympic boxing team. But the multimedia aspect also means he will have to relive Reid’s calling him to the microphones — and his flabbergasted reaction — ad infinitum. The other multimedia center employees presented him with a DVD of the occasion.
He claims to be retired from competitive boxing, yet when pressed, Schacter jokingly said he would accept an invitation to step into the ring opposite Reid. But he humbly noted that the senator “probably has a few pounds” on him. Schacter’s fighting weight was 132 pounds, and, despite admittedly putting on some weight since his last fight, he is still slight and gives up a few inches to Reid. He also cited a rumor that Reid does 150 push-ups each morning — evidence that a fight with the 69-year-old lawmaker may provide more entertainment than one might expect.
“[Reid has] definitely got the energy. He’s got a strong handshake and big hands,” Schacter said.
As for his future plans, Schacter has ruled out continuing his fighting career but said he misses the camaraderie of the sport and would be interested in coaching and teaching children.
In the meantime, Schacter will use his sparring prowess to fight in Reid’s corner on Capitol Hill.
“Before every fight you get a pit in your stomach, like ‘I’m going to go fight this kid’ — it’s scary,” he said. “So I think when you meet any other person that boxes, you understand where they are coming from and how much they’ve put into it.”