School boxing contests exempted from state regulation

Athletic Commission chair suggests change in wake of death

By: - November 30, 2021 12:15 pm

“…to be clear, the Nevada State Athletic Commission had no jurisdiction for this event, or any past events that relate to this,” said Nevada State Athletic Commission Chairman Stephen Cloobeck.

The chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission says the commission has no jurisdiction over the regulation of boxing matches such as the University of Nevada Las Vegas fraternity event that ended in the death of 20-year-old Nathan Valencia. 

Valencia, a UNLV student, died days after a Nov. 19 annual event that pitted fraternity members against one another in the ring.  

NSAC chairman Stephen Cloobeck pointed the finger at UNLV officials and the Nevada Board of Regents.  

“From what I’ve read, the way it occurred at UNLV, these student unions, the fraternities, under the auspices of UNLV, the president, the Chancellor of those universities, and of course the Board of Regents, they all have some explaining to do,” Cloobeck said. “They cannot kind of bob and weave on this and we’re here to uncover the facts, the evidence.” 

“The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents were saddened to learn of the death of Mr. Valencia and our thoughts are with his family at this challenging time,” NSHE said in a statement. “We respect and support the thorough review and investigative processes already underway and have no further comment at this time.”

“This is a homicide, as the coroner expressed. This is an event that Metro needs to fully investigate as a homicide,” Cloobeck said. “And that’s up to those that may or may not prosecute this homicide.” 

Cloobeck would not address the state’s lack of jurisdiction, but referred news media to NRS 467. A provision of the law exempts amateur contests or “school, college or university” events from state jurisdiction. 

The provisions of this chapter do not apply to any amateur contests or exhibitions of unarmed combat or any combination thereof conducted by or participated in exclusively by any school, college or university or by any association or organization of a school, college or university, when each participant in the contests or exhibitions is a bona fide student in the school, college or university,” the law says. 

“…to be clear, the Nevada State Athletic Commission had no jurisdiction for this event, or any past events that relate to this,” Cloobeck said at a news conference Tuesday morning. “That doesn’t mean after our investigation that we may have jurisdiction going forward. This is a tragedy.”

“We did not have the ability to sanction this event. But we do have the ability to investigate this event,” Cloobeck said.

State law says the commission has “sole direction, management, control and jurisdiction over all contests or exhibitions of unarmed combat to be conducted, held or given within the State of Nevada, and no contest or exhibition may be conducted…” outside the provisions of state law. 

That is, with the exception of amateur events between school, college, and university participants.  

While state law requires all contestants and ring officials be licensed by the commission, those rules also do not apply to contests between students.  

Cloobeck was unaware if any of the participants were credentialed.  

“It’s been asked whether or not this event was permitted,” he said. “I don’t know. A good question we will find out. That’s a county business licensing issue.” 

Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa said county business licensing did not issue permits and referred to a news release from Las Vegas Metro Police stating the Athletic Commission had jurisdiction of the event. 

Metro did not immediately respond to questions about the exemption in state law.  

“With regard to having proper paramedics and medical personnel, which the Athletic Commission would have liked to see — we did not sanction this, but they should have had proper paramedics and medical personnel at the event,” Cloobeck said. 

The Athletic Commission later declined to say what would have constituted proper medical personnel.

Cloobeck was also unable to say whether the referee at the fraternity event was credentialed by the Athletic Commission. 

“It’s most important to investigate the situation and remedy it and make Nevada the gold standard going forward — a better place, a safer place,” he said.

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, two grandsons, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.