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Edmonton commission didn’t follow its own policies before Tim Hague boxing death, report finds

UFC 113: Machida v Shogun 2
Tim Hague (left) fights Joey Beltran in a UFC fight back in 2010.
Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Tim Hague likely should not have been in the boxing ring last June, for a fight that led to his death, based on the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission’s (ECSC) own policies, according to a report released Thursday.

The third-party review, commissioned by the city of Edmonton following Hague’s death after a June 16 boxing match, shows that had the ECSC given medical suspensions based on its codified rules, the former UFC fighter likely would not have been allowed to fight in at least two fights he competed in earlier this year and last.

The report was released Thursday on the Edmonton city website. It includes 18 recommendations on how to move forward, including the adoption of a provincial athletic commission, rather than a city one. In the United States and most of Canada, states, provinces or Native American reservations run athletic commissions, not cities.

The ECSC suspended Hague on at least two occasions fewer days than should have been required by policy, because the commission deferred to the medical suspensions issued by ringside physicians following post-fight examinations, per the report. Those doctors had no access to Hague’s fighting history.

Hague fought on an ACB MMA card in July 2016, which was held in Russia. He was knocked out in that contest. Per ECSC rule, he should have been automatically suspended 90 days for competing in an unsanctioned event. Had that suspension been issued, Hague would not have been able to fight in a boxing match Sept. 9, 2016 in Edmonton. He lost that bout by unanimous decision.

Hague, who was 34 years old at the time of his death, fought again Dec. 2 in a boxing match in Edmonton. He lost by TKO and at that point should have been suspended 180 days based on the ECSC rule that two KO/TKOs from blows to the head in the span of six months lands to that length of suspension. The report stated that records did not show if Hague had lost the bout by TKO from blows to the head.

Had Hague been suspended 180 days, he would not have been able to compete in a hybrid boxing/MMA bout April 7 in Lethbridge, Alberta. He lost by TKO in that bout and once again the records were unclear if the finish came from blows to the head.

If those two suspensions were implemented, it’s unclear if Hague would have been in the ring June 16. At the least, he would have had two less competitions and less accumulation of head trauma.

Hague was knocked out by Adam Braidwood in the second round of that bout after being knocked down several times. Braidwood was 7-1 with six knockouts going into that boxing match, while Hague was 1-2 as a boxer. Hague died two days after the fight.

The report, done by the advisory firm MNP LLP, also gave recommendations regarding the qualifications of officials, better oversight and monitoring of licensing and better overview of promoters and fighters.

"We cannot and should not forget that a young man lost his life," Edmonton mayor Don Iveson said in a statement. "My heart goes out to the Hague family as they also review this report. I know nothing can bring Tim back to them but what we can do is ensure we improve policies and practices to prevent similar tragedies.”

Last week, the city council instituted a one-year ban on combat sports in Edmonton, which will end Dec. 31, 2018, unless otherwise decided by councillors. That decision came after the council was updated on the investigation into Hague’s death.

Edmonton MMA promotions have had to cancel planned shows that were not yet licensed. MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer reported that WWE had to cancel its shows and independent pro wrestling promotions are looking for new locales, since the ECSC also regulates and sanctions pro-wrestling events.

The ECSC issued the following statement about the report that was released Thursday:

Today the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission received the report relating to the review of the June 16, 2017 boxing event. The Commission welcomes the release of this report and looks forward to reviewing its findings and recommendations. From the outset the Commission has taken this issue very seriously and is committed to working together with City Council and the City Administration to take appropriate action based on the recommendations. We will be better situated to comment on the specific findings of the review after meeting and discussing this report as a Commission at our next meeting on Monday, December 18, 2017.

Per a press release, the Edmonton administration and commission will review the report’s recommendations and the administration will give a review of the recommendations to the City Council in January.

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