Nathan Valencia was a junior at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) who died following a boxing match that was caught on video. His family told KLAS after his death that he had collapsed at the end of the fight on November 19, 2021, and died four days later from brain injuries. He was 20 years old and just days from his birthday.
A candlelight vigil was held Saturday, November 27, on the day he would have turned 21, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His full name was Nathan Tyler Valencia.
The off-campus event was to raise funds for charity, his longtime friend Joe Castro told the news outlet.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Valencia Had No Boxing Experience but Wanted to Fight for Charity & His Fraternity, His Friend Says
Castro told KLAS that despite his longtime friend’s lack of boxing experience, he wanted to support the charity and fight for his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the fight was raising funds for Center Ring Boxing, a club that trains kids and “promote[s] the improved image of boxing as a sport,” according to its Facebook page.
An Instagram flyer described Valencia’s matchup as the “main event” at the fraternity’s “fight night.”
Castro compared the event to a “fight club.”
2. A Candlelight Vigil Was Held in Remembrance of Valencia on the Day He Would Have Celebrated His 21st Birthday
Hundreds of people gathered to remember Valencia on the day he would have turned 21 and hold a candlelight vigil, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Family members, fraternity brothers and classmates were among those who gathered to honor Valencia and grieve, the newspaper reported.
Lacey Foster, Valencia’s girlfriend, offered words of comfort to those who gathered.
“Find comfort in those around you and allow yourself to feel all the emotions,” she said, according to the Review-Journal. “There is not a handbook for this and everyone will grieve differently.”
Others described their feelings when Valencia collapsed, remembering Foster’s screams for help.
“That night proved to me how valuable life is,” Nico Escobar said through tears, according to the newspaper. “I’m still trying to process it all.”
3. Las Vegas Police Are Investigating the Death & the Valencia Family Hired Attorneys
The Valencia family provided a statement to KLAS through their attorneys, saying a full investigation would be completed. The preliminary investigation indicated “mistakes were made and safety precautions overlooked,” according to the attorneys’ statement. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police are completing an investigation, KLAS reported.
The family’s full statement said:
The Valencia family is heartbroken over the loss of Nathan. 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.
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. The family has asked for privacy during this time to grieve.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported the attorneys, Lasso and Ryan Zimmer, are from the Richard Harris Law Firm, a firm that specializes in personal injury and wrongful death litigation.
4. Valencia’s Girlfriend Started a GoFundMe for the Valencia Family
Foster launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to help the Valencia family pay for “medical and funeral expenses.” As of 6 p.m. Eastern time November 28, 2021, the fundraiser had exceeded $50,000.
Foster wrote about Valencia’s smile, his love for his fraternity, his life and its lasting impact. The Las Vegas Review-Journal identified Foster as Valencia’s girlfriend.
She wrote on the GoFundMe campaign page:
Nathan Tyler Valencia was someone who made an impact on anyone he met.
Nathan had a smile that lit up every room he walked into. I was lucky enough to cross paths with Nathan and share what felt like a lifetime of love and laughter. The love we shared was like no other. Nathan was the kind of person who put others before himself. Anyone who knows him could see how much he cared and loved for his family, friends, and myself. I was truly my best and happiest self when I was with him. The impact he made on not only my life, but everyone else’s is unmatched. He taught me love, strength, loyalty, and genuine happiness. There is nothing he wouldn’t do for me and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him. Nathan was never not smiling. 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. Not only was Nathan a large part of my life, he was a son, brother, and friend to many. Nathan was actively a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at UNLV. He had so much love for his chapter and valued the genuine connections he was able to make.
Nathan passed away on November 23rd at the young age of 20. Although Nathan is not here with us physically, his spirit will forever live on through everyone that knows him. Nathan was taken from us too soon, but I know we have gained the best guardian angel. May Nathan rest in peace and may his family and his loved ones find love and comfort in these difficult times.
5. The Fraternity, University & Event Center Also Provided Statements Following Valencia’s Death
UNLV President Keith Whitfield sent an email to the university community. It said:
It is with a heavy heart and profound sadness I share that a member of the UNLV family is no longer with us.
Nathan Tyler Valencia has passed away following a tragic incident a week ago. Nathan was a junior at UNLV and had participated in Kappa Sigma Fraternity’s “Fight Night,” an off-campus event intended to raise money.
Soon after his fight, Nathan collapsed and was taken to a hospital. 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.
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. 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.
KEITH WHITFIELD, UNLV PRESIDENT
The Kappa Sigma Fraternity and the Sahara Event Center also provided statements to KLAS.
“Kappa Sigma Fraternity is greatly saddened by the loss of Nathan Valencia at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Our deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers are with the Valencia family and the entire UNLV community,” the Kappa Sigma Fraternity’s statement said.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of Nathan Valencia, 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,” the Sahara Event Center statement said.