Tanner Boser remembers career of Tim Hague one year after death
By: Themistoklis Alexis
Combat sports can be the cruelest kind of athletic competition, one that’s co-authored many a brutal third act for its lifelong practitioners.
Many make it to the other side with a few bumps and bruises they could have avoided, but in good enough shape for life after smashing domes and snatching limbs.
Tim Hague wasn’t as fortunate.
On June 16, 2017, the UFC heavyweight alum shared a boxing ring in Edmonton with former CFL defensive end Adam Braidwood, where he suffered a brutal knockout. It was Hague’s his seventh knockout loss in less than three years across MMA and boxing competition. The veteran fighter suffered a brain hemorrhage and ultimately succumbed to his injuries two days later. He was 34.
Hague’s tragic death and the string of stoppage losses that preceded it subsequently put the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission (ECSC), the event’s sanctioning body, under the microscope. Many in the fight community felt as though the commission should not have allowed Hague to continue his career, considering his recent fight results. Those close to Hague held the commission responsible for Hague’s death.
According to Tanner Boser - a fellow Alberta-based fighter who split a pair of bouts with Hague early in his career - Hague needed saving from himself more so than any negligent commission.
“He did, for sure he did,” Boser recently told FightON, shortly after the one-year anniversary of Hague’s passing. “But you need coaches who you trust, who you’re with the whole time, who you believe when they tell you that you’re done. But if you don’t have that and you’re not going to listen to your family, that’s how it is. You can’t get the fight out of every dog. That’s just the way it is.”
Hague’s death was met with a third-party investigation from the city of Edmonton in July of 2017. According to their findings, Hague could have been spared at least two fights’ worth of brain trauma had the ECSC followed its own rules regarding medical suspensions instead of deferring to ringside doctors unaware of his recent history over the 11 months preceding his death.
The fighter’s family waited patiently for the investigation to conclude and its verdict to be released before retaining a law firm’s services for a wrongful death suit against the city in December 2017.
A one-year moratorium on combat sports was implemented in December of 2017 as a response to the inquiry findings, with a shift to a province-wide regulatory body and tighter oversight of licensing, promoters and fighters leading the report’s 18 recommendations. The ban didn’t make it to the following spring, as Edmonton city council lifted it in February.
But for all the ECSC’s glaring flaws and seeming negligence, Boser - a mainstay of the provincial scene who competed many times under its watch on Unified MMA shows - refrained from condemning the much maligned sanctioning body as a co-conspirator in the tragedy that was Hague’s death.
Boser believes that with Hague’s fan-friendly style and the handful of UFC bouts to his name, Hague could have easily resumed putting his brain at risk in fight factories far beyond the ECSC’s reach had it acted by its own book and shelved him.
“I think if Tim wanted to fight, which he did, he was gonna somehow,” Boser said. “I do think the commission should at least follow their own rules and guidelines, but I don’t think the commission was at all at fault for Tim Hague, because Tim had pseudo-retired a couple times. People had tried to tell him at the end there, that ‘hey man, you should at least take a break. You’ve been knocked out a few times in a row here.’ He wasn’t gonna listen.
“And there’s always a market for Hague because he’s good, and a big guy and he had those five fights in the UFC. There’s always a use for him. So if Tim wanted to fight, and let’s say he couldn’t get a fight anywhere in Canada, he could probably fight in Russia. If he really wanted to box, he would’ve boxed in Mexico or something. There’s always a market for a guy like Tim and if he wanted to fight, he was gonna fight. I can’t blame the commission at all for that.”
When asked how he thought Hague would want to be remembered, the 26-year-old Boser said his rival was simply one of many of their ilk, hardwired to strap on the gloves and throw down until the bitter, and, in Hague’s case, lethal end.
“He was a fighter no matter what. The guy died fighting because he wouldn’t quit,” Boser said. “This wasn’t the story of the old fighter who needed to fight because he didn’t know anything else and didn’t have money. Tim had a full-time job. He was a teacher. But he loved fighting, he was just gonna fight. You’ve got to remember Tim as a fighter because that’s what he did his whole life and that’s what he died doing.”