Updated November 26, 2021 - 6:40 pm
A 20-year-old UNLV student died days after he stepped into a ring for a charity boxing match organized by a school-sanctioned fraternity, his family said through its attorneys on Friday.
Shortly after the Nov. 19 bout, Nathan Valencia collapsed and died in a hospital, where he had been taken for injuries related to the fight, Las Vegas attorney Nicholas Lasso said.
“The Valencia family is heartbroken over the loss of Nathan,” read the family’s statement, released by Lasso and Ryan Zimmer of the Richard Harris Law Firm, which specializes in personal injury and wrongful death litigation.
Lasso alleged that no medical professionals were present until paramedics were summoned after Valencia’s collapse.
He said the Metropolitan Police Department was investigating the death. No one at Metro could be reached for comment Friday.
“Our preliminary investigation reveals mistakes were made and safety precautions overlooked. We will be completing a full investigation to determine how UNLV and the Kappa Sigma Fraternity could allow and promote an event like this to take place,” the Valencia family said in its statement. “College students should not be placed in a situation where they are pitted against each other for combat. ‘Kappa Sigma Fight Night’ is an event that has been held annually and was well known to both UNLV and the national Kappa Sigma Fraternity. 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.”
Valencia died Tuesday, according to a GoFundMe campaign organized in his name.
Campus president’s statement
UNLV President Keith Whitfield confirmed Valencia’s death and the circumstances behind it in a statement sent to the campus community Friday afternoon, calling it a “tragic incident.”
“We are shocked and heartbroken as we mourn the loss of one of our own. Coping with the loss of life is always difficult, especially under these circumstances,” Whitfield wrote. “UNLV is committing all available resources to review the incident and determine how off-campus events like these can be as safe as possible.”
“Our deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends, and loved ones,” Whitfield continued. “I am sure words cannot describe their feeling of grief and emptiness. They are in our thoughts during this very difficult time. The Rebel community shares their loss.”
Valencia was studying kinesiology at the time of his death, a UNLV spokesman said. Whitfield said he was a junior
The amateur event, Fight Night, promoted by UNLV’s Kappa Sigma Fraternity, took place at the Sahara Event Center, 800 E. Karen Ave., according to the organization’s Instagram account, which listed Valencia as fighting in the “Main Event.”
“We are deeply saddened by the death of Nathan Valencia,” venue spokesman Dan Corsatea said in a text message Friday. “We want to extend our deepest condolences to his family, as our thoughts are with him &his family &the entire UNLV community at this time of grief. We are unable to comment further, as there is a full investigation on going at this time.”
The fraternity’s local chapter could not be reached for comment. Mitchell Wilson, Kappa Sigma Fraternity’s national executive director, expressed sadness in an email and wrote, “Our deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers are with the Valencia family and the entire UNLV community.”
Although the fights took place outside UNLV, a weigh-in occurred at a UNLV Student Union ballroom two days before, according to the fraternity’s Instagram account.
Seven fights were programmed for the event, with proceeds going to Center Ring Boxing, a north valley gym that trains troubled youth.
On his Instagram account, one of the “undercard” fighters documented the Nov. 17 weigh-in and his fight two days later.
The weigh-in video showed two presenters, who were not identifiable.
The Fight Night event was in its 12th iteration, they said.
Valencia was not in the room when he was called up to present his weight. His opponent weighed just over 132 pounds, while someone off-screen said Valencia weighed just over 135 pounds.
The undercard fight video showed the fighter getting ready in a room. Wearing head pads and a mouth guard, he held his gloved hand to his chest while someone sang an a cappella rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” He walked up to the ring to scattered cheers from a few dozen spectators. Two “ring girls” flashed posters announcing the first round, while a man played the role of a referee and an announcer narrated the action.
Kappa Sigma, which was founded in 1967, was the first Greek organization at UNLV, and it has more than 320 chapters and “colonies” across North America, according to the fraternity’s section on UNLV’s Involvement Center website.
“Service is very important to our chapter,” the page reads. “Over the past biennium, the Kappa-Alpha Chapter has raised over $45,000+ for the community through events like Kappa Sigma Fight Night and Kappa Sigma Boot Camp.”
It was not clear when the information was written.
UNLV announced in 1997 that the fraternity’s parent affiliate had suspended it “following an investigation into a charge that the local chapter hazed members of its fall 1996 pledge class,” a university official wrote. Additional details were not available Friday.
The university suspended Kappa Sigma’s fraternity and sorority for a semester in 2014 and 2016 after they were found “responsible” for threatening and “using physical violence against someone” in 2013, and littering, vandalizing and possessing alcohol in 2015, according to UNLV conduct violation records.
‘Always a smile on his face’
According to the GoFundMe page, which had raised more than $40,000 by Friday evening to help his family with medical and funeral expenses, Valencia was an active member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at UNLV.
The fundraiser described Valencia as a loving, caring and kind person.
“Whether he was out with friends, at a festival, at the gym, or playing video games, there was always a smile on his face that radiated throughout the room,” the fundraiser organizer, Lacey Foster, wrote. “Not only was Nathan a large part of my life, he was a son, brother, and friend to many.”
Valencia’s fraternity posted photos of him on its Instagram account with news about his death.
“Our brother Nathan showed us nothing but love and will continue to do so from up above,” the post stated. “His strength and kindness never went unseen and we were so thankful to have him as a brother.”
Johnny Sao, a national spokesman for the fraternity, wrote the following in an email to the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday:
“The entire Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity is devastated by the passing of Brother Nathan Valencia from our chapter at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Our hearts are with his family, our Brothers, and the greater UNLV community during this difficult time.”