On March 28, amateur kickboxer Dennis Munson Jr. successfully made weight for his debut fight, a three-round bantamweight match-up against fellow fighting newcomer Michael Vang later that evening.
The Roufusport-trained kickboxer entered the ring at the Eagles Club in Milwaukee to compete in the Duke Roufus-owned and Roufus-run North American Fighting Championship (NAFC). Five hours later he would be pronounced dead at the Aurora Sinai Medical Center.
A recent investigative report by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel revealed that a litany of errors by fight officials contributed to the tragedy.
“From A to Z, I can’t tell you what was done right here,” said Michael Schwartz, a veteran ringside doctor from Connecticut. “People have to recognize you can’t take shortcuts on this. People die.”
The fight began at 6:50 p.m. The opening round was competitive, but heading into the second frame, Munson began to display clear signs of distress that went unnoticed by the referee, his cornermen and the ringside physician.
Macie Bryant, Munson’s mother, told the Journal-Sentinel that she blames the referee, the doctor and the coaches for the loss of her son.
“That wasn’t a piece of meat with eyes, that was a human being. That was my son,” she said. “I know he signed up for this, but as far as I’m concerned, when they sent him back out there, they killed him.”
After the second round, Munson staggered his way back to the corner. He sat on the stool and slumped over. He had trouble standing and Scott Cushman, Roufusport’s longtime head striking instructor, pushed Munson’s head up and his shoulders back. Joe Nicols of Roufusport was also in the corner.
Cushman appeared unhappy through his body language, “almost disgusted,” pioneering referee “Big” John McCarthy told Journal-Sentinel.
“He’s not understanding what is going on with his fighter,” McCarthy said. “He is just disappointed in his performance.”
“He doesn’t look like the same fighter,” said veteran ringside doctor Sherry Wulkan, medical chief of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. “I would be on more-than-high alert at that point.”