Boxing promoter Bob Arum cries racism as plug pulled on title fight between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Andy Lee at UTEP stadium due to Mexico's violenceJust spoke to Chris Lechunga, spokesman for UTEP, who said the university police had no reports of violent incidents and made no arrests at the Mares-Morel fight at the Don Haskins Center on campus last Saturday night.
There hasn't been a punch thrown yet in the match between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Andy Lee, but the Chancellor of the Texas University System has already delivered a knockout blow.
The WBC middleweight title match was supposed to take place at Sun Bowl Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas-El Paso on June 16, but Chancellor Francisco Gonzalez Cigarroa pulled the plug on Tuesday, citing unspecified security risks.
"We did a standard security risk assessment, as we do with all UT System sites for events, and the conclusion was the risk was higher than normal and that Sun Bowl Stadium wasn't the appropriate venue for this event," Anthony DeBruyn, a spokesman for the Chancellor's office, said on Wednesday afternoon.
DeBruyn would not go into any specific details of what those higher risks were. But some in the area have inferred that Cigarroa is concerned about violence along the border between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico would increase and spill over into Sun Bowl Stadium on the night of the fight because Chavez is a very popular boxer in Mexico. He is the son of legendary Hall of Famer, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.
Cigarroa's decision, which came without a vote from the UT Board of Regents, has created a firestorm among politicians and civic leaders in El Paso.
Officials involved in staging the boxing match were informed of the decision an hour before a press conference to announce the fight was to be held in El Paso. Bob Arum, the promoter for Chavez, was caught completely off guard.
"Talk about a kick in the (butt). All the fighters had been flown in. We were all in the hotel lobby getting ready to go over to the press conference when we heard the news," Arum said. "Nobody can figure out why the hell he's talking about. If there is concern with border violence, what does that have to do with the UTEP campus? This really is just a racist thing. He's saying that Hispanics, who would make up the bulk of the audience for a Chavez fight, can't be relied upon to behave at an event."
What makes Cigarroa's decision even more curious is that there was a boxing match between Abner Mares and Erik Morel at the Don Haskins Center on the UTEP Campus this past Saturday. There were no reports of violence before, during or after the Mares-Morel fight.
DeBruyn said he didn't know whether there were any security risks associated with that fight. Chris Lechunga, spokesman for UTEP, said the university police had no reports of violent incidents and made no arrests at the Mares-Morel fight.
El Paso Mayor John Cook told the El Paso Times that Cigarroa's decision to KO the boxing match at the Sun Bowl reflects poorly on the city.
"It was extremely ignorant of the chancellor when people make remarks like that (about border violence) and don't consider the consequences to communities like El Paso," Cook said. "Is this chancellor thinking of closing the UTEP campus down? If the Sun Bowl is so dangerous to the athletes, is this chancellor thinking about the students on campus? Is he thinking of canceling all of the UTEP home games? I'm very upset somebody in his position would do something like that."
Arum was hoping to repeat what he did when he was promoting Oscar De La Hoya and brought him to the Sun Bowl in 1998. De La Hoya's match against Frenchman Patrick Charpentier drew a crowd of 45,368.
Arum said he is looking at the Toyota Center in Houston and the Alamodome in San Antonio as possible alternative sites if they can't find a suitable location in El Paso.
"We don't want to abandon the people of El Paso," Arum said.