Nevada Athletic Panel Opens Inquiry Into Fraternity Boxing Event After Student Dies

Nathan Valencia, 20, a student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, died on Nov. 23 of brain injuries four days after headlining a charity boxing match, lawyers for his family said.


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The Nevada State Athletic Commission announced on Monday that it had begun an investigation into an amateur boxing event hosted by a fraternity at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, at which a 20-year-old student collapsed minutes after a three-round bout and died four days later.

The student, Nathan Valencia, a junior, died from brain injuries on Nov. 23 at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, where he was taken after the fight at Sahara Events Center in Las Vegas, lawyers for the student’s family said. He would have turned 21 years old on Saturday.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said on Monday that it had investigated the licensing of the charity boxing event at which Mr. Valencia had been “critically injured” and determined that “there is no information that there is any criminality on the part of the venue” and that the death was not considered criminal.

In its statement on Monday evening, the Athletic Commission said that it would share further details of its investigation “as they become available.”

The event, called Fight Night, is an annual tradition for the university’s Kappa Sigma fraternity chapter to raise money for charity. This year’s match was held on Nov. 19 and included students from other fraternities and sororities at the university.

Mr. Valencia was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, the lawyers for his family said. They emphasized that the event was not a hazing.

In a statement issued through their lawyers on Friday, Mr. Valencia’s family expressed heartbreak over his death and announced their intention to investigate how the university and its Kappa Sigma fraternity chapter allowed the boxing match to be held.

“College students should not be placed in a situation where they are pitted against each other for combat,” the statement said. “We will leave no stone unturned to determine how a 20-year-old ended up in a school-sanctioned amateur fight that cost him his life.”

Mr. Valencia had no prior boxing experience and had never participated in a match before, his family’s lawyers, Nick Lasso and Ryan Zimmer, said in an interview on Monday.


Nathan ValenciaCredit…Valencia family

In a statement on Friday, the president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Keith E. Whitfield, said that the university was “committing all available resources to review the incident and determine how off-campus events like these can be as safe as possible.”

The university on Monday confirmed that Mr. Valencia had been a junior majoring in kinesiology, but declined to answer further questions.

The university’s website notes that over the last two years, the Kappa Sigma fraternity chapter had raised more than $45,000 through events like Fight Night.

Video footage of the evening match shows Mr. Valencia, clad in red boxing headgear, black boxing gloves and black shorts, darting around the ring and fielding blows to his chest and head. Less than five minutes after the match ended, Mr. Valencia collapsed, the family’s lawyers said, adding that emergency workers arrived more than 10 minutes later.

Mr. Valencia was pronounced brain dead before his death on Nov. 23, his family’s lawyers said.

In an interview with CNN on Monday, Cynthia Valencia, Mr. Valencia’s mother, questioned the training of the referee in the match in which her son had participated. She added that there were no paramedics on standby for the match.

Ms. Valencia said she had asked her son before the match why he was billed as the headliner, despite his lack of experience in the ring. He reassured her that all participants were amateur boxers, that he would be wearing headgear, and that he would be raising funds for charity, she said in the interview.

Mitchell B. Wilson, the executive director of Kappa Sigma, said on Monday that the fraternity was “greatly saddened by the loss of Nathan Valencia at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.” He did not respond to further questions about Mr. Valencia’s death.

The university’s Kappa Sigma chapter did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.


A vigil was held for Nathan Valencia over the weekend at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.Credit…Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review Journal

The Valencia family is seeking accountability for Nathan’s death and “more than anything, wants to make sure that this never happens again,” Mr. Lasso said, adding that they believed that Fight Night had been held by the university’s Kappa Sigma chapter for at least a dozen years.

“We believe that throughout the last 12 years there have been various injuries that required medical treatment,” Mr. Lasso said. “Our obligation is to be able to put an end to this.”

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