LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The Nevada State Athletic Commission is investigating an amateur "fight night" after a UNLV student who participated in the event died.
Tuesday, the NSAC released a statement saying it has launched an investigation into a fraternity charity boxing event held on Nov. 19.
"The NSAC takes this tragedy seriously, and our hearts go out to Mr. Valencia’s family and loved ones,” said Cloobeck. “We will share further details on the investigation as they become available.”
The NSAC Chair Stephen J. Cloobeck also held a livestream discussion about the ongoing investigation:
"This is a tragedy. Our hearts go out to the Valencia family. This is unnecessary. It shouldn't have happened. And that's why we have the Nevada State Athletic Commission, because combat sports are just that. It's not a joke. It's serious. And Nevada takes this very seriously with regard to the life, safety, and health of those that combat within the state," said Cloobeck.
Cloobeck began the press conference by clarifying that the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) did not sanction, nor have jurisdiction over the "Fight Night" charity boxing event organized by UNLV's Kappa Sigma fraternity, but he intends to find out who signed off on it and how much they knew.
"With regard to the University having knowledge of this and accepting and allowing this, well, go speak with the University and the Board of Regents. They've got a lot of explaining to do, in my opinion. They cannot duck, hide, bob and weave on this," said Cloobeck.
Only then, Cloobeck says, can NSAC get answers to the many questions surrounding the death of Nathan Valencia, including whether there were medical personnel or paramedics on site, the experience and training level of the referee in the ring, and the circumstances surrounding the student-organized boxing matches.
"We did not sanction this, but they should have had proper paramedics and medical personnel at the event. We must find out if this referee's ever been licensed. I've heard various reports that the referee was acting a certain way... We don't know and can't be conclusive of any of this, but we will find out. Were there proper matches between them made? We don't know, but we will find out. Were the students under the influence of alcohol, drugs? We don't know, but we will find out," said Cloobeck.
13 Action News reached out to UNLV and the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents to try and get some answers.
UNLV said the university will cooperate with the Athletic Commission's investigation but has no additional information to share at this time. 13 Action News still hasn't heard back from the Board of Regents.
Nathan Valencia collapsed a few minutes after taking part in that Kappa Sigma Fight Night event at the Sahara Events Center, according to his girlfriend, who spoke to 13 Action News. Valencia later died at Sunrise Hospital on Nov. 23.
Valencia's death has been ruled a homicide, a spokesman for Clark County confirmed on Monday. County spokesperson Dan Kulin noted "homicide" in this case means the death happened at the hands of another and does not necessarily denote a criminal act.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department says Valencia's death is tragic, but the circumstances surrounding his death are not criminal and no charges will be filed.
According to a statement from attorneys representing Valencia's family, the boxing match was an annual fundraising event and is well known to both UNLV and the national Kappa Sigma fraternity.
However, the family's attorney Nick Lasso claimed medical help was not available at the event and there was no professional referee.
Tuesday, the family of Valencia issued the following statement through their attorneys' office:
"We greatly welcome the investigation by Chairman Cloobeck and the Nevada Athletic Commission. We will fully cooperate and share any information necessary for their inquiry.
We have confirmed from multiple sources that there were no paramedics or medical personnel of any kind at this event. We have also confirmed that participants in years past were knocked unconscious and so injured they required hospital attention.
The so-called “referee” at this event appears to have had no professional training, no license as required by the Nevada Athletic Commission and was recorded on video drinking before the fights.
It is unacceptable that the individual in charge of enforcing the rules of combat with the authority to stop a fight would be impaired. From this, it is clear that UNLV, Kappa Sigma Fraternity, and the Sahara Event Center all looked the other way and failed to ensure proper safety precautions were in place.
We will hold those responsible for Nathan’s death accountable and ensure that this never happens to another son, daughter, or member of this community."
UNLV's president has also said the university is committing all available resources to review the incident and determine how off-campus events like these can be as safe as possible.