20-year-old college student dies days after participating in fraternity 'Fight Night'

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20-year-old college student dies days after participating in fraternity 'Fight Night'

A University of Nevada, Las Vegas student died last week following a fraternity’s amateur boxing match, according to a university statement.

Friends and family are mourning Nathan Tyler Valencia, 20, who died Nov. 23 – four days after participating in Kappa Sigma fraternity’s “Fight Night” on Nov. 19.

According to social media flyers posted by UNLV’s Kappa Sigma chapter, the off-campus event planned to raise money for Center Ring Boxing in Las Vegas. Valencia was listed as one of the fighters participating in the night’s “Main Event.”

Nick Lasso and Ryan Zimmer, the Valencia family’s attorneys, told USA TODAY that Valencia had no prior boxing experience.

In a Friday letter to the campus community, UNLV President Keith Whitfield wrote that Valencia collapsed soon after his fight and was taken to a hospital, where he later died, according to Lasso and Zimmer.

Whitfield added that UNLV is “committing all available resources to review the incident and determine how off-campus events like these can be as safe as possible.”

The family’s lawyers stressed that Valencia’s loved ones are seeking answers and accountability.

“More than anything, the family just wants to make sure that this never happens again, to anyone – any child, son or daughter,” said Lasso. “It’s a horrible incident that was really, completely avoidable. [This could have been avoided by] having professional referees, professional medical staff or even just not having an event like this at all to begin with – where two students are in combat with each other where one could get seriously injured.”

20-year-old college student dies days after participating in fraternity 'Fight Night'

Lasso and Zimmer added that there was no medical care on-site – despite the fact that “Fight Night” is an event the UNLV chapter of Kappa Sigma has hosted for many years, with multiple recorded injuries in the past. They said that Valencia’s death is the first death following the event that they know of so far.

For Valencia’s case, the two explained that the 20-year-old collapsed about 60 seconds after the fight ended.

“It actually took about, we believe, 10 to 15 minutes of Nathan being unconscious, or in that state on the floor, until the medical attention arrived,” said Zimmer.

A statement issued by the Valencia family through Lasso and Zimmer of the Richard Harris Law Firm confirmed that the family will be seeking a full investigation. Valencia’s loved ones are also asking for privacy during their time of grief.

20-year-old college student dies days after participating in fraternity 'Fight Night'

“The Valencia family is heartbroken over the loss of Nathan… 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. College students should not be placed in a situation where they are pitted against each other for combat,” read the statement, which added that “Fight Night” is an annual event “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’s death comes amid rising criticism around the dangers of Greek Life – including protests over generations of sexual violence and fatal hazing activities. For the past several decades, at least one college student has died every year due to hazing. While Valencia’s death wasn’t linked to hazing, there are numerous reports of young men in fraternities being pushed to brave unsafe physical trials.

For subscribers:College students protest fraternities over sexual violence. Will Greek life change?

Hazing today:Two fraternity deaths in two months. COVID-19 didn’t stop hazing – it may have hid it from ‘watchful eyes’

Zimmer and Lasso noted that this kind of incident may be more isolated to the overall setup of the specific “Fight Night” event.

“This isn’t one of those stories you hear about hazing or drinking. This was a philanthropy and [Valencia] was trying to do good… It’s just the way that things were set up in the get-go,” said Zimmer, pointing again to the dangers of the event, including the lack of on-site medical care. “There were failures at every turn, and I don’t think he signed up for that.”

Valencia was a member of UNLV’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and not the Kappa Sigma chapter that hosted “Fight Night.” In an Instagram post following Valencia’s death, the UNLV Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter wrote, “Our hearts are heavy as Heaven gained an angel yesterday… His strength and kindness never went unseen and we were so thankful to have him as a brother.”

Mitchell Wilson, Kappa Sigma’s national executive director, also expressed extended condolences.

An on-campus UNLV vigil was held for Valencia on Saturday night. Saturday would have been Valencia’s 21st birthday.

Contributing: The Associated Press and Chris Quintana, USA TODAY.

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