One of the more bizarre scenarios of recent times ended the way it should have on Friday when the chancellor of the University of Texas system reversed an earlier decision and now will allow Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. to defend the World Boxing Council middleweight title against Andy Lee on June 16 at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.
On Tuesday, minutes before a press conference to formally kick off the fight promotion, chancellor Francisco Gonzalez Cigarroa canceled the bout for security reasons. Promoter Bob Arum then suggested the cancellation was retribution for critical comments made by his son, Richard Arum, that were critical of the performance of students in the Texas system.
At a news conference on Thursday in El Paso, FBI El Paso Special Agent in Charge Mark Morgan said he knew of no reason the fight should not be permitted, saying there were n "know, credible or specific" security threats.
On Friday, Cigarroa reversed himself, though he put conditions on it. State, local and federal law enforcement must devise a security plan in advance and must promise they can handle any issues. Also, he banned sales of alcohol.
Cigarroa released a seven-minute video in which he professed his love for the Texas-Mexico border region. He attempted to explain why he cancelled the fight by referring to a vision statement he wrote when he accepted his position. He went to great length to point out he wrote the statement in El Paso.
In that vision statement, I also stated that the safety of our students and our faculty and our staff on all of our campuses is of utmost concern to me. Because I want to make certain that they can learn and work and live in a very safe environment. And I know that those principles are also extremely important to you.
A risk report done by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement pointed out that leaders of the Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels would be present at the fight.
However, the report said there were no threats to the security of the city, the event or those attending it. But that was enough for Cigarroa to order the fight out of the Sun Bowl.
When I heard and read the risk assessment that was performed on the Julio Cesar Chavez-Andy Lee boxing match, there were concerns raised to my office that this specific event could not be viewed as a normal event because of certain risk indicators.
But he said he changed his mind after hearing the pleas of all segments of society in El Paso.
This decision that I made resulted in significant concern from the El Paso community. And over the past two days, I have heard the uniting voice of El Paso in a very unifying and respectful way.
He said after meetings with law enforcement, his concerns were mitigated and he felt the bout could proceed safely.
Part of the reason for concern could be the identity of Chavez's girlfriend, Frida Munoz Roman. She was the common law wife of the late son of reputed drug lord Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman. But Joseph Arabit, the special agent in charge of El Paso for the Drug Enforcement Agency, said he wasn't aware of the Chavez-Roman relationship and didn't see it as an issue.
If in fact that is correct, it is something we should be aware of and are not. But I don't see that as a credible threat if it were.
For his part, Arum said he still believes the decision was a vendetta by Cigarroa for his son's words.
"I don't trust the chancellor, quite frankly, and he doesn't act like the chancellor of a major university system should," Arum told Yahoo! Sports. "I still believe this is about his desire to get at me because of what my son said, and that is just wrong. A lot of people believe that, too, because it makes sense and there was no other explanation to do what he did."
Arum said he expects a crowd in excess of 40,000. Tickets go on sale Saturday and are priced between $25 and $200.
"This is a great event for the sport and for this city and it's ridiculous what we had to go through," said Arum, who said he was in no position to comply with the chancellor's conditions. He said the burden for providing the security plan and carrying it out will fall on city, state and federal law enforcement as well as UTEP.