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Bare-knuckle boxer dies following knockout loss at BKFC 20

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Phil Lambert for BKFC

Well-traveled heavyweight combat sports veteran Justin Thornton, a fixture on the mixed martial arts (MMA) regional scene for more than a decade, succumbed to injuries sustained in his bare-knuckle fight against Dillon Cleckler as part of the BKFC 20 event last August.

Thornton, 38, was hospitalized following his first-round knockout and never recovered.

“This morning we were very saddened to be notified of the passing of one of our fighters, Justin Thornton, who competed at BKFC 20 on August 20, 2021,” BKFC president Dave Feldman told MMA Fighting. “We join the rest of the combat sports community in sending our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.”

Thornton’s parents remained with him until the time of his passing.

According to the GoFundMe account set up shortly after his defeat, Thornton suffered a severe spinal cord injury as a result of the fight, which left him paralyzed and unable to breathe without a ventilator. That said, the official cause of death has yet to be revealed.

A sad day for combat sports.