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13 Investigates: Grief, threats consume UNLV student in aftermath of deadly amateur boxing match

Screengrab from full fight video shared by Sean Claggett
Screengrab from full fight video shared by Sean Claggett
Nathan Valencia - file image
Emmanuel text to Nathan after fight
Threats to Emmanuel
Posted at 8:40 PM, Dec 20, 2021

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Two students from separate fraternities duked it out for charity.

Neither is an actual boxer. Only one would survive.

"There was no real training. I mean, they were amateurs," said attorney Sean Claggett.

The event is a longstanding tradition at UNLV, and a successful one.

MORE: Full coverage of fraternity fundraiser 'fight night' that led to UNLV student's death

"It had gone on for, my understanding, like 10 years, and they'd raised almost $100,000 for charity over those 10 years. The night of this fight, they'd actually raised $10,000 for charity," Claggett said

Kappa Sigma's fight night helped fund Center Ring Boxing, a Las Vegas gym for troubled youth. But the heartbreak it caused is immeasurable.

"I can't imagine the pain that family's going through and how awful... It's a parent's worst nightmare," Claggett said.

Nathan Valencia - file image
20-year-old Nathan Valencia died on Nov. 23 after participating in an amateur boxing event for charity.

20-year-old Nathan Valencia, a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at UNLV, died after participating in the event. Tragedy came with little warning.

"It doesn't appear on the video that there's an indication that Nathan was hurt. It became very clear after the fight, when he tried to get up from his stool that there's something wrong," said Claggett, who represents Emmanuel Aleman, Nathan's opponent in the match.

Claggett shared the full fight video with 13 Investigates.

"You won't watch that fight and be like, 'oh, there was that one punch that makes sense.' It's very hard to understand," Claggett said.

Shortly after the video ends, Nathan collapses. He died four days later at Sunrise Hospital on Nov. 23.

"I don't think either one of them, if they thought they were in danger, were going to get into it," Claggett said.

Screengrab from full fight video shared by Sean Claggett
Attorney Sean Claggett, who represents Emmanuel Aleman, shared video of the full fight between Aleman and Nathan Valencia with 13 Investigates. Valencia died after participating in a UNLV fraternity's amateur boxing match for charity.

The six-minute fight held at the Sahara Events Center consisted of three two-minute rounds. Nathan is wearing black trunks with red headgear; Emmanuel is in white with black headgear.

"They had headgear, they had mouthpieces, they were using 16-ounce gloves — which, for those people who aren't familiar — those are really big gloves," Claggett explained.

Big gloves with lots of padding.

"Neither boxer was cut. Neither boxer had a bloody nose. And one of the misconceptions is that Emmanuel was throwing punches and hitting Nathan in the back of the head. That's the exact opposite. Nathan repeatedly struck Emmanuel in the back of the head many, many times," Claggett said. "And the referee warned him, and then took a point for that because you can't hit in the back of the head. And it wasn't a malicious thing, it was just that he doesn't know how to box and so his punches were looping, kind of like slaps to the back of the head."

In the days leading up to the fight, both young men exchanged text messages and friendly banter.

"Nathan didn't make the weigh-in, so they were texting each other, showing each other their weights to make sure that they were comfortable with the weigh-in," Claggett explained.

The text chain, which includes another member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, discusses protective equipment, COVID safety, walk-out songs and the signed contracts, which Claggett believes are the verification of eligibility forms signed in October.

The forms say, to act as a participant in Kappa Sigma Presents Fight Night under the Nevada System of Higher Education, each is confirming he's a student, amateur participant in unarmed combat and not getting paid for this event or any other unarmed combat event in the past.

Nathan texts, "We main event, we for sure gotta put on a show for everyone."

Emmanuel responds, "Good luck brotha! See you Friday."

In the aftermath, Claggett explains, "The night of the fight, he sent a text message to Nathan, and he thought he was going to be fine. I mean nobody thought that this would happen."

Emmanuel text to Nathan after fight
Attorney Sean Claggett shared the text messages exchanged between his client and Nathan Valencia after an amateur boxing match for charity went horribly wrong. Emmanuel sent Nathan this get-well text after the 20-year-old collapsed following their fight.

That text sent at 10:36 p.m. reads, "Hey man hope you're doing ok. Good fight brother! All love."

"And then he went to the hospital, and he was asked to leave by some of the fraternity brothers, which is understandable," Claggett said.

Things got worse after Nathan passed away.

"Obviously, it's been hard to grieve properly. He's been put in a position where there have been death threats," Claggett said. "He himself and his parents wanted to go to the funeral, but because of some of the threats that they were receiving from some of the family, it was just decided that that wasn't a good idea."

Claggett shared the threats, posted on social media, with 13 Investigates.

One, by a man named Justin, says, "I'm coming with a gun to shoot one of you. An eye for an eye."

Two others were posted by Tina Herren, Nathan's aunt. She wrote: "You killed my nephew Nathan. You will pay for this!" followed by an expletive.

And in another post, "You are responsible in the death of my nephew Nathan. I cannot wait for you and your fraternity to pay for what you all did!!!"

Threats to Emmanuel
The UNLV student who fought Nathan Valencia at a charity boxing match that would ultimately lead to the 20-year-old's death has experienced grief and threats like the one pictured in the wake of Valencia's death.

13 Investigates spoke to Tina Valencia-Herren on the phone and asked her about the threats. She said she posted them in anger when she was devastated by loss and dealing with unbearable emotion.

When asked what she meant when she wrote, "You will pay for this," she said financially, in terms of a civil lawsuit.

"I understand people hurt when there's loss, and that makes sense. It's just, threatening a kid who didn't do anything wrong... Both boys were in there raising money for charity," said Claggett.

Video: Loved ones say goodbye to UNLV student during hospital honor walk

Nathan's death was ruled a homicide.

"Homicide doesn't mean criminal anything. It's just a legal word that we use to describe that when somebody dies at the hands of another, it's ruled a homicide. It doesn't mean that it's murder or anything else," Claggett explained.

A Las Vegas Metropolitan Police investigation confirmed the circumstances surrounding Nathan's death, though tragic, were not criminal and no charges will be filed.

The department's Special Investigation section also looked into the event licensing and said, "Currently, there is no information that there is any criminality on the part of the venue."

"I think what really needs to happen is everybody needs to slow down and not speculate as to what did or didn't happen," said Claggett. "My client may or may not have been any part of this. We don't know. We don't know what Nathan's health condition was before he got in the ring."

Now, everyone is searching for answers and everything is being called into question — like whether pre-fight medical screenings should be required in the future.

"If there weren't physicals or those type of things, maybe there needs to be," Claggett said.

On Dec. 13, the Nevada State Athletic Commission voted to expand its oversight of amateur boxing. Fight organizers will now be required to have emergency medical personnel on site.

At the Kappa Sigma event, Claggett says, "There were nurses. There were two nurses that were there. There was not an ambulance on standby with paramedics."

The NSAC's emergency regulation will also require trained referees.

"I've heard the criticisms of the referee from other folks," Claggett said. "I guess the question becomes, 'would a different referee have stopped the fight?'"

He added that his client is grieving and asking for patience as the university's and coroner's investigations play out.

"Until we have the medical evidence, we don't know what actually happened," Claggett said. "Regardless of the cause, my client is extremely saddened by the fact that Nathan passed away. Extremely saddened. And look, if everybody could go back in time, my client would do anything to have Nathan alive today."

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