The June 16 middleweight title bout between WBC beltholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and southpaw Andy Lee will be relocated from the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, due to “high security concerns” in relation to violence on the U.S.-Mexican border Top Rank Inc. CEO Bob Arum told USA Today on Tuesday.
Arum said that he still plans to have Chavez (45-0-1, 31 knockouts), a popular Mexican fighter and the son of the former champion by the same name, meet the Detroit-based Lee (28-1, 20 KOs), but that their clash will likely take place at either Houston’s Toyota Center or the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Arum told USA Today that he and his group were about an hour from the Sun Bowl venue when they were informed of the decision, but decided to proceed with Tuesday’s press conference from the stadium.
“The only thing we can figure out is that so many people would be coming over the border to watch the fight. That’s not a high security concern, that’s just racist,” said Arum of the move made by the University of Texas at El Paso Board of Regents, whose facility houses the Sun Bowl.
“The people are up in arms here [in El Paso.] The president of UTEP [Diana Natalicio] went crazy. We’ve been working on the deal with the university for more than a month. I want to emphasize that it was not UTEP that made this decision.”
The Board of Regents issued this statement regarding its move to the website, KFOXTV.com:
“After consultation with University of Texas System officials and UT El Paso officials, it was determined that the Sun Bowl on the UT El Paso Campus is not the appropriate venue for the Chavez, Jr., and Lee professional boxing match.”
Event coordinator, Lester Bedford, who received the initial call about the problem, said that he manages and markets all of Top Rank’s events in Texas, and that he has managed and marketed all but one HBO fight in Texas for the past 25 years.
“The head of special events of UTEP, Jorge Vazquez, called me and asked if I could come to his office. I said, ‘Is this something that we could talk about on the phone?’ Because I was working on setting up for the press conference and we were running behind and had to start in about an hour. He said that I needed to meet with the vice president of the university,” said Bedford to RingTV.com.
“I walked into their office and they just told me that they got a call from the board of regents, who had called the president of the university telling them that they had to cancel the event for security concerns. I said, ‘you’re kidding. This is a joke right?’ It was just a total shock.”
Bedford said that he was turned down also when he proposed using the campus’ Don Haskins Center, which, last weekend, played host to a Showtime-televised unanimous decision victory by Abner Mares over ex-beltholder Eric Morel for the vacant WBC junior featherweight title.
“I said how can there be any more of a security concern than there was for that fight? That’s where the basketball team plays and it holds around 12,000,” said Bedford.
“They just said that it wouldn’t be appropriate to do an event there. Tickets were going on sale Saturday, and we expected 30,000 to 35,000 plus. So now, they’re looking at Houston, San Antoio and a couple of spots in California.”
“I strongly oppose the decision by the UT System to cancel this fight, especially without consulting local officials regarding any potential threat,” said Rodriguez.
“This is just one more example of what happens when our state leaders disregard the facts by falsely calling border communities ‘war zones’ without any evidence to support their claims.”
William Blaziek, general manager for the El Paso Convention and Visitors Buereau, released the following statement regarding the cancelation:
“The decision by the University of Texas System Chancellor to cancel the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Andy Lee fight on June 16 citing concerns of safety and that the UTEP campus is not the appropriate venue for this event came as a shock to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Implying that border violence is reason for cancellation is inflammatory and damaging to the image and reputation of El Paso and is not based in fact. El Paso has consistently been named the safest city in the United States.
“Additionally Sun Bowl Stadium is more than just a campus venue – it is a community venue hosting the nationally significant Sun Bowl Football Bowl game and community events such as Monster Jam, the Rolling Stones, and soccer matchups. We call upon the UT System to reconsider its decision.”
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank