Police, Athletic Commission spar over criminal investigation of boxing death

By: - December 13, 2021 10:57 am

A memorial for Nathan Valencia at UNLV’s campus on Dec. 2. (Photo: Michael Lyle)

The boxing death of a 20-year old UNLV student prompted the Nevada Athletic Commission, which boasts it’s the gold-standard for regulation of unarmed combat, to adopt rules covering amateur contests and exhibitions, which were exempt from the Commission’s jurisdiction until now.   

Commission chairman Stephen Cloobeck asked that the new regulation be named Nathan’s Law after Nathan Valencia, the student who died after a Nov. 19 bout at the Sahara Events Center.  

State law exempts bouts involving students from the Commission’s jurisdiction.   

 “Fighter safety is my top priority as the chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission,” Cloobeck read from a prepared statement. “And it’s our top priority as this commission. …But as we will discuss today, there’s some statutory limits on our jurisdiction.”

Cloobeck said whether any other entity had jurisdiction over the match “remains to be determined through our investigation, which is ongoing.”

Despite a previous statement from Las Vegas Metro Police saying there was no criminality involved in Valencia’s death, Cloobeck asserted Metro is still conducting a criminal investigation. 

However, a spokesperson for Metro says the department’s “previous statements still stand…” 

“Although Mr. Valencia’s death is tragic, the circumstances surrounding his death are not criminal and no charges will be filed,” Metro Officer Larry Hadfield said in a statement. 

The Commission played a recording of the 9-1-1 call after Valencia’s bout, which revealed “no on-site emergency personnel,” according to Cloobeck. 

“It’s now incumbent upon us to honor Nathan Valencia’s memory by protecting college students for similar events in the future,” Cloobeck said. “The regulation here today will close some holes in the system that allow fraternities and similar organizations to evade oversight and regulation. It will be up to the future legislators to determine whether they wish to make additional statutory changes,” Cloobeck said, adding the Commission intends to bring a measure to the next Legislature. 

Anyone seeking an exemption from Commission oversight will be required to obtain a determination from the Athletic Commission that the event qualifies for an exemption. 

Requests must be filed no later than 60 days before the scheduled event. 

The request must include:

  • a description of the event 
  • a statement identifying the school conducting the event 
  • a list of participants, their unarmed combat records, and proof of their enrollment at the school, college, or university
  • a list of ring officials 
  • an endorsement from an administrator of the school, college, or university sanctioning the amateur contest or exhibition. 
  • a statement of safety protocols in effect for the amateur contest or exhibition

Events that are not approved as exempt from the Athletic Commission’s regulation will be required to abide by the restrictions spelled out in state law. 

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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.