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'It was just a slug-fest': Las Vegas boxing club owner reacts to UNLV 'fight night' death

Armin Van Damme
Posted at 4:30 PM, Nov 30, 2021

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — To even step into the boxing ring requires months of training and steps to ensure no one is seriously injured.

Such training and precautions weren't evident to Armin Van Damme, who owns City Boxing Club in Las Vegas, when he watched videos of a recent UNLV fraternity “fight night” event. A 20-year-old student, Nathan Valencia, died after taking part in one of the fights.

“I don’t see any skill level. I don’t see anything that affiliates themselves with boxing," Van Damme told 13 Action News.

Van Damme says boxing is not something people can just jump into the ring for.

RELATED STORY: Nevada State Athletic Commission investigating 'fight night' after UNLV student death

“Someone who steps into the ring needs to have a lot of experience,” he said.

He says it takes someone starting out boxing about 18 months before they fight someone in the ring — a minimum of eight to nine months if that person is talented. Van Damme says they need to learn how to properly punch, block, move and keep their emotions in check to minimize the risk of serious injury.

“When you have tools, you need to be able to use those tools. These kids didn’t have any tools to use. It was just a slug-fest,” he said.

RELATED STORY: Family of UNLV student who died following fraternity's amateur 'fight night' event seeks answers

He says any sanctioned fight would need to match potential boxers on weight, experience level, and whether they can hold themselves in the ring.

“That’s why you have a state athletic commission. If the match isn’t right, the commission doesn’t even match them up,” he said.

Attorneys for Valencia’s family say the fight night event had no paramedics or medical personnel of any kind and, in years past, participants had been so injured they required hospital attention. Van Damme says he wouldn’t be surprised if proper protocols weren’t followed and ultimately believes the event should never have happened.

“My condolences go out to the family, because somebody should have given that kid advice and he still would have been alive today,” he said.

The Valencia family attorney also claims the referee was drinking during the event. Van Damme says it’s important for the fighters and referees to remain sober during matches so no one gets seriously hurt.