EL PASO, Texas — A high-profile match on the University of Texas El Paso campus will be held if law enforcement can ensure a safe environment, the University of Texas System chancellor said, reversing his 3-day-old ban.
Francisco Cigarroa had canceled the June 16 fight between Julio Cesar Chavez and Andy Lee at the Sun Bowl, citing a "higher than normal" security risk. A federal risk assessment had warned that leaders of warring Mexican drug cartels would attend, the Associated Press reported Friday.
UTEP president Diana Natalicio said Cigarroa told her one reason he canceled the fight was a tie between Chavez and Sinaloa drug cartel boss Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman mentioned in a federal security report.
Local media have reported Chavez is in a relationship with the widow of Guzman's son.
Cigarroa set several conditions for the fight to go forward: State, local and federal law enforcement must promise they can handle any security measures. The contract with the promoter and the security plan must be approved by system officials. And no alcohol can be served.
Promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank said he was surprised by the restrictions. Arum said he would have to get assurances from UTEP and local police by early this week that they can be met. If not, Arum said, he would move the fight to Houston.
"This is preposterous. We've never had one bit of problems in Los Angeles, Houston or San Antonio, which are all big Hispanic communities, on a Chavez fight," Arum said.
The risk report, done by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, also said leaders of the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels would be present at the fight. 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.
Cigarroa's decision to cancel the fight 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, El Paso ranks among the safest cities in the nation in terms of violent crime.
State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, dismissed the cartel report as "incredulous" and said cartel leaders weren't likely to attend a high-security, highly publicized event with a strong police presence.
Arum laughed at the cartel warning: "Of course members of the cartels will come. When I first started promoting, there were Mafia families at Madison Square Garden. It would seem like a good place to arrest them."