On November 19, Nathan Valencia, a 20-year-old Las Vegas college junior and fraternity member, fought a member of another campus fraternity in the “main event” of an annual boxing match.
According to an Instagram flyer leading up to Kappa Sigma Fight Night, proceeds for the annual event were supposed to support Center Ring Boxing, a youth boxing club in Las Vegas.
But the friendly match quickly turned tragic.
According to KLAS-TV, Valencia, a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, collapsed shortly after his bout. Four days later, the outlet reported, he was dead.
His family told the outlet that Valencia suffered brain injuries that led to his death in a hospital.
Joe Castro, a friend of Valencia’s who witnessed the fight, described the atmosphere to KLAS-TV as an “underground fight club” and said Valencia decided to participate in the event even though he had zero boxing experience.
Castro said that at some point Valencia collapsed and a brawl broke out. He said that amid the chaos, Valencia received no medical help. “I saw no medical, no doctors, nothing,” Castro said.
The referee appeared to be poorly trained, and Valencia received several fatal blows as the crowd kept cheering, a boxing expert told KLAS-TV after reviewing footage of the fight.
Nicholas Lasso, an attorney representing Valencia’s family, told The Daily Beast in a statement that a “preliminary investigation” revealed that “mistakes were made and safety precautions overlooked.”
“College students should not be placed in a situation where they are pitted against each other for combat,” Lasso 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.”
In a statement on Friday, Keith Whitfield, President of UNLV, put some distance between the university and the event, calling the boxing match an “off-campus event intended to raise money.”
Whitfield did not take responsibility for the event and its safety precautions, but said the university would be reviewing the incident to determine how future off-campus events can be “as safe as possible.”
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is investigating the incident. The police department did not respond to a request for comment.
A GoFundMe page raising money for Valencia’s funeral expenses said Valencia died on Nov. 23, days before his 21st birthday.
The page described Valencia as having a smile that “lit up every room he walked into.” It also described him as an active member of his fraternity. “He had so much love for his chapter and valued the genuine connections he was able to make.”
As of Saturday afternoon the page had raised nearly $46,000 for Valencia’s family.
The Kappa Sigma chapter of the university did not respond to a request for comment. In an Instagram post, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter that Valencia was part of expressed condolences to his family. The chapter did not respond to a request for comment.