Prize Fights Laws in Canada Explained

By Last Updated: June 6, 2024

What is a charge of Prize Fighting?

Prize Fights Charges in CanadaPrize Fighting is covered under 83 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Prize Fighting occurs when two people who have met for a previously arranged encounter for a fight, whether by fists, hands or feet. The offence of prize fighting includes those who encourage, advertise, officiate or umpire, or attend to report or aid.

Prize Fighting is a straight summary offence.


Some examples of a charge of Prize Fighting may include the following:

  • A person attends a prize fight in order to provide medical aid to the combatants.
  • A person attends a prize fight for the purpose of officiating the prize fight as a referee or judge.
  • A person promotes or encourages a prize fight by encouraging the event to occur and encouraging persons to attend.


The defences available to a charge of Prize Fights are entirely dependent on the facts of your case.

However, some defences to a charge of Prize Fighting may include:

  • The accused was wrongly identified as the person who committed/provided Prize Fights
  • The accused did not intend to commit the offence of Prize Fights by providing medical aid services
  • The accused was mistaken in encouraging Prize Fights in good faith


A charge of Prize Fights is a straight summary offence, which entails a maximum punishment as follows:

  • The crown may only proceed summarily, therefore Imprisonment for a term not exceeding two (2) years less a day, and/or a $5000 fine,

Punishments for Prize Fights is consistent with that of a summary conviction offence. There are no mandatory minimum penalties for this offence. The maximum is no more than 2 years of incarceration.

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Overview of the Offence 

According to s. 83 of the Criminal Code:

Prize Fights

Engaging in prize fight

83 (1) Every one who

(a) engages as a principal in a prize fight,

(b) advises, encourages or promotes a prize fight, or

(c) is present at a prize fight as an aid, second, surgeon, umpire, backer or reporter,

is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

The Guilty Act (Actus Reus)

The actus reus for a charge of Prize Fights under s. 83 is established by proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, of the following:

  • The accused’s external actions include being a principal, advising, aiding, or umpiring, a prize fight

The Guilty Mind (Mens Rea)

The mens rea for a charge of Prize Fights under s. 83 includes proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that:

  • The accused, knowing their actions were not authorized by law, encouraged, or promoted a prize fight


How to Beat a Prize Fighting Charge

Every case is different. The availability and strength of any defence depend entirely on the specific facts of your case. The strength of any available defence rests on the evidence against you and the precise details of the allegations. However, the following are some common defences that may be used when fighting a Prize Fighting charge:

Factual Innocence

A strong defence against a Prize Fighting charge is to maintain that you are factually innocent. If you can show that the facts and the evidence do not support that you engaged in Prize Fights, then you may have a defence that you were factually innocent.

Lack of Intent/Mistake

If you can show that you were never seeking to commit the offence of Prize Fights, and were merely attending an event as a spectator, and were not aware of the licensing requirements the event organizers were required to adhere to. For you to be convicted of Prize Fights, the crown must prove that you had knowledge of the prize fights. If this cannot be proved this could be a suitable defence.


Depending on the circumstances of your case, a possible defence to a Prize Fights charge may be to raise an identity defence. In this case, for this defence to be raised successfully, you will have to prove that you were not the person who committed the prohibited acts.

Any applicable Charter defences

The Charter sets out your rights and freedoms before and after your arrest. If the police fail to abide by these rights deliberately or inadvertently, it could aid in your defence. If any of your Charter rights have been violated before or after your arrest, you may be able to have some or all of the evidence that the Crown is relying on to secure a conviction excluded under s. 24(2) of the Charter.


The Criminal Code provides for a possible maximum term of imprisonment of no more than 2 years less a day for those convicted of a Prize Fights charge.

Frequently Asked Questions  

What does Prize Fights mean?

Prize Fights means two people who have met for a previously arranged encounter for a fight, whether by fists, hands or feet. The offence of prize fighting includes those who encourage, advertise, officiate or umpire, or attend to report or aid.

Is Prize Fights an indictable offence?

No, Prize Fighting is a straight summary offence.

Can you go to jail for Prize Fights?

If you are convicted of Prize Fights, you can go to jail. A charge of Prize Fights carries a maximum punishment of two (2) years less a day. Therefore, there is a possibility that you can go to jail.

Published Decisions

Rex v. Pelkey, 1913 CanLII 728 (AB KB)

The accused was found not guilty by a jury, in a historical decision which outlines the definition of what constitutes a prize fight. Moreover, the decision acknowledges that merely being a spectator or bystander at a prize fight, without knowledge that the fight is not legal, does not constitute an offence.

Read the full decision here.

R v. M.A.F.A. Inc., 2000 CanLII 50762 (ON CJ)

The accused’s were found guilty of prize fighting, following an incident in Mississauga, Ontario. The accused’s were the two directors of the MAFA Inc. (Martial Arts Fighting Academy) kickboxing club in Mississauga, and promoted a Thai kickboxing event called a “Fall Brawl” which included distributing pamphlets which included admission price ($10) and the location of the event. Approximately 200 spectators attended.

Read the full decision here.

R v. Jay Chang, 2003 NBPC 11 (CanLII)

The accused was found guilty of prize fights charges after promoting an event which occurred in Saint John, New Brunswick on September 27, 2002. The event was promoted by leaflets, on the internet, and with posters as the “Extreme Fighting Championship”, and admission was required to attend.

Read the full decision here.


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Michael Oykhman

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Michael Oykhman is a senior lawyer and founder of Strategic Criminal Defence, a full-service criminal law firm with central law offices across Western Canada and Ontario.

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