By Jim Vertuno
AUSTIN — A state senator from El Paso said Thursday the University of Texas System regents should overturn a decision by Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa to ban a high-profile boxing match from the Sun Bowl over unspecified security concerns.
The regents are scheduled to meet Wednesday and Thursday in Austin. Sen. Jose Rodriguez, a Democrat, sent the nine-member board a letter asking them to put Cigarroa’s decision on their agenda so he and other lawmakers and officials from El Paso can ask them to intervene.
“I urge the Board of Regents to reverse this decision; allowing it to stand will cost El Paso millions of dollars and irreparably damage our city’s reputation,” Rodriguez’s letter said.
Cigarroa told the University of Texas-El Paso that its football stadium cannot host the June 16 fight between Mexico’s Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Ireland’s Andy Lee after a risk assessment determined the fight created an elevated security risk. UT system officials have provided no details to support the claim, and the risk assessment report has not been made public.
Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies say they are unaware of any security risk associated with the fight.
Rodriguez said he’s frustrated that the UT system has not provided details to support the decision.
Cigarroa’s move banning the fight angered El Paso officials who say their city has been falsely portrayed as a war zone suffering spillover violence from the drug war in Mexico. El Paso ranks among the safest cities in the U.S. in terms of violent crime.
El Paso officials have said they will do what they can to keep a bout projected to generate about $4.5 million for the city. Organizers expected more than 40,000 fans at the fight featuring Chavez, a popular Mexican boxer and the WBC world middleweight champion.
Fight promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank said he will move the fight to Houston’s Toyota Center if needed but is willing to wait until after the regents meet.