The assistant director of Virginia's athletic commission called him one of the best ringside boxing physicians he had ever seen. Boxing commissioners in the District were impressed, too: They hired him as their chief doctor.

But for all his knowledge and professed expertise, Clinton B. Hoffler was no doctor. He had neither a license nor a medical degree. Yesterday Hoffler pleaded guilty in D.C. Superior Court to a charge of practicing medicine without a license, for which he could be sentenced to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

"I've been in boxing all my life and he's in the top five of all the ring physicians I've ever seen," said Doug Beavers of the Virginia Athletic Commission, a retired Navy medical corpsman. "He was real thorough. I don't think anyone would have questioned him."

According to Beavers, Hoffler was well-known and well-regarded in the profession. Hoffler gave the chief medical presentation a year ago at a convention of the International Boxing Federation, Beavers said.

He fooled other doctors and staff on the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission, where he was responsible for certifying the fitness of boxers and wrestlers.

"He was very reliable and very efficient," said commission Chairwoman Cora Wilds, a political science professor at the University of the District of Columbia. "He coordinated things. He made sure all the equipment was in place."

Hoffler resigned from the D.C. commission last year after Wilds received a tip that Hoffler did not have a medical license. The U.S. attorney's office was called in.

Beavers and Wilds said Hoffler worked as a physician for boxing matches in both Virginia and the District, but they gave conflicting accounts of how Hoffler was hired.

According to Wilds, Hoffler already had extensive experience attending matches in Maryland and Virginia before the D.C. commission hired him on a part-time basis for $150 a day in April 1982. Hoffler used his experience in those states as a reference, she said.

But Beavers said he hired Hoffler to work matches in Northern Virginia because Hoffler already was chief physician for the D.C. commission. Beavers said he had met Hoffler through functions of the International Boxing Federation and the U.S. Boxing Federation, and that Hoffler was on the medical advisory board of the U.S. federation.

"I think he worked in D.C. first," Beavers said. "All boxing commissions need doctors. They're really hard to come by. We only pay doctors $65 a match, and it's hard to get doctors to do anything for $65."

In the District, Hoffler was assisted by nearly a dozen other physicians. Wilds said Hoffler did not perform examinations without another doctor present.

"He knew how to do that conduct physical examinations ," Wilds said. "The kind of things he was doing were not that difficult. It was just a basic medical."

Wilds said physicians applying to the commission are now required to fill out a revised and more thorough job application.

She described the incident with Hoffler as "once in a lifetime." She said that almost all the other doctors hired by the commission are physicians she has known through their experience at various hospitals.

Hoffler, of Upper Marlboro, now represents a New Jersey laboratory products firm, according the city's bail agency. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 20.