Dillon Cleckler responded to the tragic events involving Justin Thornton.
Thornton passed away Monday morning after reported injuries and complications, including paralysis, following his first-round knockout defeat to Cleckler at BKFC 20 in Mississippi back in August.
Cleckler, who also knocked out Thornton in the first round of an MMA fight a couple of years prior, was undoubtedly shaken by the news as he posted a heartfelt message later on in the day.
He notably stated pneumonia as the cause of death while not mentioning how their rematch ended. There is no exact cause of death at the time of writing.
“As a fighter nothing prepares you for the news I received this morning on my way to training. Some of you may not of heard yet but my last opponent Justin Thornton passed away last night due to pneumonia. I can’t help but feel absolutely devastated about this because I’ve known Justin for years. Not many people know this but we fought 8 years ago and he told me right away he wanted the rematch. I know that when he got the phone call to finally get that rematch on a bigger stage he saw a huge opportunity and took it. Justin is a warrior. It’s in his blood to fight. He loved it. He fought anyone, anytime and anywhere and when I didn’t have an opponent, he still jumped at the opportunity to get in there with me again.
“Any man or woman who steps in the ring or the cage is special, they take a risk that 99.99% of the world would never take and sometimes I still don’t know why we do it … but Justin was a fighter his entire life and deserves nothing but respect!!! My thoughts and prayers are with Justin Thornton and his family at this time. RIP warrior 💔”
ABC Concerned With Bare Knuckle Boxing Regulation
Meanwhile, the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) has issued concern with regulation in the sport of bare knuckle boxing.
Especially as while there is less of a chance of a severe concussion in the sport, fighters who are old or past their prime are the ones who tend to compete.
“Bare Knuckle Boxing (BKB) has been gaining in popularity across parts of the United States. Since 2018, early injury studies in BKB have suggested a higher rate of minor hand fractures and lacerations, but less severe concussions,” the committee wrote in a statement to MMA Junkie on Tuesday. “Nevertheless, athletes who compete in this sport are generally older (over 35 years old), have already fought in various other Mixed Martial Arts disciplines and tend to be at the tail end of their careers. Many of these competitors have been affiliated with other MMA organizations and have been subsequently released by these promotional companies due to many factors including (but not limited to) loss of skills, consecutive losses or injuries. Lastly, many of these fighters have not fought for extended periods of time.
“Therefore, the Association of Boxing Commission’s Medical Committee is especially concerned that athletes competing in BKB may be at higher risks for acute and chronic injuries due to these and other factors. Disturbingly, and despite our recommendations, some jurisdictions regulating these events are still not following the minimum medical guidelines set forth by the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) and the Association of Ringside Physicians (ARP). More concerning is the fact that many commissions still do not require any imaging studies (CT Scan or MRI Scan) in a sport where individuals are at risk for acute and chronic head injuries.”
The ABC went as far as urging commissions to proceed with caution whenever they are considering licensing a bare knuckle boxing event.
“Given the limited data regarding the medical risks of BKB, the ABC medical committee implores commissions who are considering licensing these events to proceed with caution,” the statement read. “Furthermore, we encourage those jurisdictions who are still deficient in these minimum medical recommendations and guidelines to immediately update and revise their requirements to include a CT scan, MRI scan and/or neurological clearance performed by a board-certified neurologist prior to clearing a fighter to compete.