LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada boxing regulators voted Monday to close a legal loophole by giving themselves authority over charity unarmed combat events like one that led to the death last month of a University of Nevada, Las Vegas student competitor after a fraternity fundraiser.
State Athletic Commission Chairman Stephen J. Cloobeck declared the rule “Nathan’s Law” in honor of Nathan Valencia, the 20-year-old who died from head injuries following his Nov. 19 “Fight Night” bout sponsored by school-sanctioned fraternity Kappa Sigma.
“This emergency regulation is warranted and necessary,” Cloobeck said. “This has rocked our community."
Cloobeck aired audio of a 911 call summoning paramedics to the Sahara Event Center off-campus venue where Valencia collapsed, and a video showing hospital staff honoring Valencia for organ donation following his Nov. 23 death.
Commissioner Anthony Marnell termed the rule “intermediary” and “critical” ahead of possible action by the state Legislature when it meets in 2023. Marnell called it essential to “push this message ... out there.”
“It’s disturbing and heartbreaking that different entities find unarmed combat to be something of fun and ... entertainment,” he said. “I don’t think people realize what this is, how dangerous this is, and it’s not appropriate in any way without major oversight, regulation and approval from people who know what they are doing.”
Edward Magaw, senior deputy state attorney general, said in answer to a question from Marnell that the Athletic Commission rule can be enforced by state and district attorneys, including through the filing of criminal charges.
The unanimous vote by the five-member panel expanded a commission rule focusing on a state law that exempts from commission oversight competitions involving students and conducted “exclusively” by schools, colleges, universities and associated organizations.
The commission already has authority over what state law calls “contests and exhibitions of unarmed combat.” The new regulation narrows an exemption and requires written permission for a charity contest or exhibition.
The commission then could control promoting, permitting, weigh-ins, referee requirements and insurance. It also would require on-site medical care.
“We are the leader. We’re setting the standard. Hopefully everyone will follow,” Cloobeck said.
Kappa Sigma, the oldest fraternity at UNLV, had hosted similar boxing events for at least 10 years without Athletic Commission oversight. It has been suspended by UNLV and its national organization pending investigations.
Valencia’s family, through their attorneys, called the commission move a positive step and said they want state lawmakers to "pass similar legislation to permanently close the loophole exempting universities from the Athletic Commission’s oversight.”
“Simply because the Athletic Commission did not have regulatory authority over Kappa Sigma Fight Night does not mean that UNLV, the Kappa Sigma fraternity, or the Sahara Event Center are absolved from responsibility ... for their complete lack of care in the management and organization of this event,” attorneys Nicholas Lasso and Ryan Zimmer said.
Las Vegas police have said no criminal charges will be filed, but Cloobeck said the department and Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson have ongoing investigations.
“Whether any other entity had oversight remains part of the investigation,” the commission chairman said.
Wolfson did not immediately respond to messages. Las Vegas police Officer Larry Hadfield, a department spokesman, pointed again to the department statement.
“Although Mr. Valencia’s death is tragic, the circumstances surrounding his death are not criminal and no charges will be filed,” the statement said.