Controversial ‘Rough N’ Rowdy’ boxing event comes to Fayetteville

Cumberland County News

Is it entertainment, or is it dangerous? 

The popular social media company, Barstool Sports, hosted its amateur boxing competition in Fayetteville Friday, but some say the fights aren’t safe.

Dozens of people tailgated in the outside The Crown Theater ahead of “Red, White, and Bruised” Friday night.

“It’s an amateur backyard brawl. An indoor backyard brawl is all it is,” said Patrick McKinney, who attended the fight.

The event matches a few trained, but mostly untrained fighters in the ring for cash. Barstool Sports’ social media pages promoting the event, feature knockouts, big blows and plenty of trash talking.

“We’ve got a lot of great country little boys from the city of Fayetteville,” said Keith Bowen outside the event.  “They are ready to fight, get a little aggression out.”

After the death of a participant in 2017, some want to see changes to Rough N’ Rowdy to better protect the safety of the fighters.

“It’s like you’re there, you brought the crowd, you gave them a show, and now you’re done. They don’t care past that,” said Melissa Pederson.

Pederson’s husband William, a 34-year-old Amy veteran and father died from injuries she says he sustained during a Rough N’ Rowdy event in South Carolina in February 2017.

Pederson filed a wrongful death lawsuit, now in federal court, against Rough N’ Rowdy and its creator Christopher M. Smith.

According to Pederson, her husband was perfectly healthy and fought in matches the day before. 

Pederson says her husband was hit in the head during the second round of the fight. The referee stopped the match, but not until well after William Pederson “received grievous and life-threatening injuries,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said Pederson was “clearly staggering, unbalanced and disoriented, but was not examined by a physician beyond a perfunctory and negligently performed assessment.”

“My husband was free to leave. They did just a quick look in his eyes and they exited the ring.  That was it,” said Pederson.

Pederson says her husband was in stands watching the rest of the competition when he started to complain to friends that his head hurt and he felt nauseous. Pederson says her husband went to the bathroom where he later found unconscious.

Pederson says her husband was rushed to the hospital but had suffered massive brain bleeding. 

“By the time he got there it was too late. Over 80 percent of his brain had suffocated. There’s no coming back from that,” she said.

Pederson wants to see Rough N’ Rowdy change its protocol to ensure fighters are properly checked out by a doctor after each fight. 

She believes that if her husband was given a meaningful post-fight evaluation, he could have received medical treatment much sooner than later might have saved his life.

“I would hate for anyone else to go through that. It doesn’t seem like anything has changed,” she said.

The lawsuit is still pending. 

In court documents in response to the suit, attorneys for Rough N’ Rowdy say the plaintiffs fail to establish the “defendant’s conduct was the proximate cause of William J. Pederson’s injury and subsequent death.”
CBS17 reached out to the attorney representing Rough N’ Rowdy for comment but was told he was out of the country and unavailable.

CBS17 also reached out to Barstool Sports to learn more about the safety procedures in place for the Rough N’ Rowdy fights, but have not heard back.
Promotional material for Friday’s fight in Fayetteville featured current service members and veterans of different military branches facing off.

The controversy surrounding the event prompted Fort Bragg to issue a statement saying it does not endorse Rough N’ Rowdy.

A spokesperson told CBS17 that participation was frowned upon, and that it was made clear to service members employed by Fort Bragg or the 18th Airborne Corps that they cannot appear in any official capacity.

The spokesperson went on to says any injuries sustained by a service member during the competition, might not be covered by their health benefits.

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