An independent report has concluded the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission made several missteps in the buildup to a boxing match that led to UFC veteran Tim Hague‘s death in June.
The report, ordered by the city of Edmonton in the wake of Hague’s death, recommended several changes to the way the ECSC regulates events, calling for more stringent rules on medical suspensions and the creation of a provincial athletic commission.
“It does appear that certain ECSC Policies were not followed for the June event,” stated the report, which was written by business consultancy firm MNP, LLP.
On two occasions prior to Hague’s fatal bout, commission doctors gave the fighter a shorter medical suspension than was required by the rules. It also failed to account for an unsanctioned MMA bout held in July 2016, when Hague suffered a knockout loss, which should have triggered an immediate 90-day suspension.
Had that term been enforced, Hague wouldn’t have been licensed two months later, in September, for a nine-round boxing match in Edmonton, which he lost via unanimous decision.
Hague then returned to the ring in December for another boxing bout and suffered a TKO loss. Under ECSC rules, that should have led to a mandatory 180-day suspension for a knockout loss from blows to the head. Instead, he went on to compete in a “superboxing” – hybrid of boxing and MMA – fight in April 2017.
The report noted the ECSC deferred to the opinions of physicians, who weren’t aware of Hagues’ fighting history, to impose medical post-fight suspensions rather than follow the commission’s guidelines on suspension length.
The report also noted that the commission held different standards for MMA and boxing regarding medical suspensions, with the “superboxing” bout occupying a grey area of enforcement.
Overall, the report recommended 18 changes to the ECSC’s current policies to bring it in line with other athletic commissions in Canada and the U.S. Among them was an anonymous tip line for people with concerns about the health and safety of fighters.
Hague, who was known for his brawling style, was transported to the hospital after complaining of head pain and vomiting in the wake of his knockout loss. He died two days later. He was 34.
Hague’s family recently hired an attorney, Norm Assiff, to represent the family. Assiff is conducting an independent investigation into the incident. Assiff told CBC.com the report “covers up certain things or doesn’t accentuate certain facts” and took the commission to task for not following its rules.
“If it didn’t happen to Mr. Hague it almost certainly would have happened to some other fighter at some time,” he said. “It was a ticking time bomb.”
This past week, the city of Edmonton announced a moratorium on all combative sports until Dec. 31, 2018, scuttling several boxing and pro-wrestling events planned in the coming months.
In a prepared statement, the ECSC said it “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.”