Safety concerns delay UT-El Paso boxing match

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Following Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s reversal on the decision to cancel a high-profile boxing event in El Paso, the border town’s City Council is set to vote today on whether or not to approve a renegotiated contract with Top Rank about the fight set to happen on June 16.

Last Tuesday, Cigarroa cited a “higher than normal” risk assessment with holding the event. Cigarroa reversed his decision on Friday when he said in a video statement online that he would allow the fight between Julio Cesear Chavez Jr. and Andy Lee at the University of Texas-El Paso’s Sun Bowl to happen provided that security was enhanced and the sale of alcohol was prohibited at the event.

“Apparently there were some concerns about connections between some of the cartel members in Mexico with one of the fighters,” said senator José Rodríguez, D-El Paso.

Rodríguez said the local law enforcement, which included the Federal Bureau of Investigation, all agreed there was no specific credible evidence of a threat at the event.

“At the same time it became evident that none of the local law enforcement had been consulted or checked with in regards to this issue and neither had a lot of our local elected officials prior to the cancellation of the event,” Rodríguez said.

Regarding the Chancellor’s conditions on the event, Rodríguez said the ban on alcohol should be lifted since the enhanced security should minimize concern. He said people are likely to drink at block parties or tailgates in any case, and UTEP would benefit from the sale of beer.

Rodríguez also said El Paso was being treated differently than other schools and was being discriminated against. Rodríguez also said the issue has threatened El Paso’s reputation.

“These kind of conditions have not been placed on events before,” Rodríguez said. “It would be one thing if there was a record of problems here at the university with serving beer or alcohol, but there has never been a problem.”

Top Rank fight promoter Bob Arum said he does not understand why the issue arose from the chancellor’s office. Arum said he is suspicious because his son, New York University professor Richard Arum, was quoted as being critical of the UT System in a Washington Post article.

“I would hope this wouldn’t be the case but it may very well be that he connected my son’s name and my name, and this was the result,” Bob Arum said. “This could very well be the smoking gun, because otherwise none of it makes any sense. None of it. Why the chancellor inserted himself into this situation seems very, very strange to me.”

The UT System did not respond to requests for a comment on the situation.

However, professor Richard Arum, who studies higher education, said he thought the situation was an odd coincidence.

“In order for me to do the work I do, I have to assume that people are acting in good faith,” Richard Arum said. “So I have to assume that the Chancellor cares about undergraduate education and is trying to do something to improve it. So I think it’s an odd coincidence — that’s all I think.”

Rodríguez said he unsuccessfully requested the UT Board of Regents to address the procedure Cigarroa took when cancelling the fight in their meeting tomorrow, as well as what standard procedure would be in the future.

“I am going to pursue this with the Board of Regents, if not at this meeting then with a follow up letter to ensure that we have procedures in place to avoid this happening again,” Rodríguez said.