Official Reverses Fight Cancellation

Apr 27, 2012

EL PASO, Texas -- The University of Texas System chancellor announced Friday he will allow a high-profile boxing match to be held on the school's El Paso campus if law enforcement can ensure a safe environment, reversing a 3-day-old ban that had upset city leaders.

Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa had earlier canceled the June 16 fight between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Andy Lee at the Sun Bowl, citing only a "higher than normal" security risk. A law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Friday that federal risk assessment had warned leaders of warring Mexican drug cartels would attend.

Cigarroa set several conditions for the fight to go forward. State, local and federal law enforcement must promise system officials they can handle any security measure. A security plan must be approved in advance by system officials and no alcohol can be served.

The chancellor met by teleconference with local and federal law enforcement and city leaders and said they assured him they can handle any security concerns.

The risk report, done by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, had said leadership of both the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels would be present at the fight -- but specified there were no specific threats to the security of the city, the event or those attending it, according to the law enforcement official.

The cartels have waged a bloody war in Ciudad Juarez across the Rio Grande from El Paso for control of drug smuggling routes and other criminal enterprises in the city.

The official, who is familiar with the contents of the report, spoke on condition of anonymity because the official isn't authorized to release the information.

University of Texas at El Paso confirmed Friday that university police had received a federal report earlier this month, but declined to discuss its contents.

Homeland Security Investigations "sent a security assessment to UT System who sent it to us and it wasn't for another two weeks they (UT System) decided to cancel," said Veronique Masterson, a public information officer at UTEP.

Cigarroa's previous decision to cancel the fight without releasing any details had angered El Paso officials and state lawmakers, who accused him of fostering a culture of fear that the city has been overrun by cartel-related violence. Despite the drug war raging in Mexico, the city ranks among the safest in the nation in terms of violent crime.

A day after the announcement, local state and federal law enforcement officials in El Paso, including a representative of ICE, said they had picked up no intelligence of a credible threat or security risk associated with having the fight in El Paso.

Joseph Arabit, the Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's El Paso division, said his agency had not received any information of specific threats surrounding the boxing match.

Fight promoter Bob Arum has called El Paso a natural place to host a fight with a popular Mexican boxer like Chavez, Jr. The 51,500-seat Sun Bowl drew more than 40,000 fans to watch Oscar de la Hoya fight in 1998.


Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press