A case as been filed over the death of a Milwaukee, WI kickboxer, who lost his life after an amateur fight in 2014. The family of Dennis Munson Jr. has filed a wrongful death case against several defendants including the event promoter, the ringside physician, the gym where Munson trained, and Munson’s coach, Duke Roufus, a well-known MMA coach. Other defendants named include two additional coaches, Duke Roufus’s training academy, and two insurance companies.
It is common in combat sports such as boxing, MMA, and jiujitsu, for contestants to perform a weigh-in prior to their match. Competitors must meet a certain weight class in order to enter the ring. A common strategy for contestants to gain an edge in the ring is to “cut weight” before a competition. This practice involves dehydrating oneself, minimal eating, and heavy exercise to try to make just under the requirement for their weight class. Shortly after a weigh-in, the competitor will then build their weight back up and recover in the short time prior to the match. Munson was reported to have struggled with cutting weight prior to his match, which could have led to some disadvantage in the ring. Most states require weigh-ins to be done one day prior to a match to give athletes proper time to rehydrate.
Munson’s match was his debut. Prior to Munson’s match, kickboxing was unregulated by state law, thus, no protective gear was worn, and there were no specific rules on when a fight should stop. He had never before competed and was training heavily prior to the match. During Munson’s fight in the ring, he took several hits and was displaying signs of trouble. In the second round, he was unable to defend himself against oncoming punches and was stumbling with his legs crossed. In a review of the video of the fight, several experts pointed to signs of distress and stated that the fight should have stopped. Munson’s coach only encouraged him to keep getting up, while the referee only stood in the corner as the fight continued onward.
To make matters worse, the ringside physician was not paying attention to the fight and was seen simply checking his phone, and disregarding what was going on in the fight. The lawsuit argues that had the physician be paying proper attention, he may have identified and treated the signs of Munson’s distress. In the third round, Munson eventually collapsed, and an ambulance was called. Unfortunately, the event promoters themselves were bogged down by disagreements over proper treatment and what manner to exit the facility. This only delayed the care that Munson desperately needed.
Following the case, Wisconsin has moved forward to regulate kickboxing fights as it does with MMA and other combat sports. Munson’s family has allowed state officials to use the video of the fight to train officials on signs to watch out for to prevent such a tragedy in the future.
If you or a loved one has been injured, contact the legal professionals at Gilman & Bedigian today.