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Boxing Promoter Makes Proposal To Have Fight At Sun Bowl; City Council Expected To Vote On It Tuesday

Last week, University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa said he would allow a fight between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Andy Lee at the Sun Bowl, as long as certain conditions, including an alcohol ban, were met.

Top Rank Boxing, the promoter for the fight, has now offered the City of El Paso its own deal for putting on the fight at the Sun Bowl.

In order to sponsor the event, the City of El Paso must provide financial assistance of $500,000 for the boxing match, much less than the $2.5 million discussed between the City and Top Rank last week when the fight was first canceled at the Sun Bowl by Cigarroa due to security concerns.

One hundred and fifty thousand dollars would go toward Top Rank expenses for the live gate, refundable after $2 million in ticket sales is reached. And $350,000 would go toward a sponsorship fee for the HBO broadcast, which would include City of El Paso presence in the ring, live mentions by the ring announcer during the event, noting “live from El Paso, Texas” with a five second tag, such as “the safest city in the United States,” and beauty shots of the city throughout the broadcast.

The proposal is expected to be voted on at City Council’s meeting on Tuesday.

Cigarroa’s conditions for having the fight at the Sun Bowl are:

-A letter of Assurance from the Chief of El Paso Police, the Chief of the El Paso Sheriff’s Office, the El Paso Director of the FBI and the El Paso Director of the DEA that states any increased risk indicators related to this boxing match can be mitigated to a routine level, assuring that this event can occur at the Sun Bowl;

-No beverages containing alcohol will be sold or served at this event nor are alcoholic beverages allowed to be brought onto University Property;

-Any costs for security over and above the normal security measures UTEP would take for such an event will not be encumbered by the University of Texas at El Paso or The University of Texas System;

-Prior to signature, the contract must be reviewed by the UT System Office of General Counsel and the UT System Office of Risk Management and shall conform with Regents’ Rules and Regulations;

-A security plan developed by the UT El Paso Chief of Police to be reviewed and affirmed by Director Michael Heidingsfield;

-A letter to the UTEP community from President Diana Natalicio apprising them of the date and time of the event and providing them assurances that law enforcement agencies have addressed any security concerns resulting from such a boxing match. Furthermore, students and non-essential personnel should feel free to leave the University premises while the event is ongoing.

El Paso leaders and Top Rank Boxing officials had been negotiating Friday morning to have the fight at the Sun Bowl Stadium on June 16 as it was originally scheduled before it was canceled on Tuesday morning by the chancellor.

Richard Adauto, UTEP’s Executive Vice President for Legal Affairs and Oversight, told ABC-7 on Tuesday that it was an unusual step for the UT System to get involved.

“They typically don’t OK any event we have,” Adauto said.

Alcohol is not sold at UTEP football games but is sold during the Hyundai Sun Bowl and at some other events at the Sun Bowl stadium depending on approval. According to a UTEP Police log, only one incident was reported during the boxing matches at the Don Haskins Center on April 21 – an iPad was stolen from a TV production room.

ESPN Friday Night Fights took place at the University of Texas at Austin Frank Erwin Center on Friday night and alcohol was sold at the arena.

On April 26, Cigarroa and UT System Director of Police Michael Heidingsfield met via videoconference call with El Paso representatives of the FBI, DEA, ICE, Customs and Border Patrol, and local law enforcement officials to present the UT System’s Risk Assessment related to the boxing match at the Sun Bowl.

The purpose of the videoconference also was to receive the risk assessments of the invited law enforcement agencies, according to Cigarroa’s news release. There was consensus with Heidingsfield’s assessment that this specific boxing match should not be considered a routine special event at the Sun Bowl and there was also consensus that the increased risk indicators for such an event could be mitigated, according to Cigarroa.

“The thorough and deliberative discussion that ensued during the video conference, coupled with the fact that the El Paso Chief of Police, DEA, FBI and Sheriff’s office addressed my concerns regarding safety by affirming that those concerns can be mitigated to a high confidence level,” Cigarroa said in a statement. “This led to my decision to permit UT El Paso President Diana Natalicio to enter into negotiations for UTEP to contract with Top Rank, Inc., for the Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. vs. Andy Lee fight, contingent upon several conditions. Our universities and health science centers are public institutions and hundreds of thousands of members of the general public visit these institutions every year. One of the most important responsibilities I have in my role as Chancellor of The University of Texas System is the safety of our students, faculty, staff and campus visitors.”

El Paso’s FBI Special Agent in Charge Mark A. Morgan said on Wednesday that there is no known credible, vetted or specific threat to the fight at the Sun Bowl. Morgan, along with El Paso’s mayor and city manager and other local leaders, spoke at a news conference Wednesday in an effort to try and keep the boxing match in El Paso.

Mayor John Cook said the decision to cancel was made on raw intelligence and not based on a credible threat.

The risk report, viewed by the Associated Press, was done by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations and said leadership of both the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels would be present at the fight – but specified there were no specific threats to 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 to the Associated Press because the official isn’t authorized to release the information.

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 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.

A day after the cancellation 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.

State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, who had asked the Texas system Board of Regents to overrule Cigarroa, on Friday dismissed the cartel report as “incredulous.”

The cartel leaders weren’t likely to show up at a high-security, highly-publicized event with a strong police presence, Rodriguez said.

“Logic tells us, common sense tells us, these people would stay away,” Rodriguez said.

Top Rank’s Bob 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,” Arum said. “It would seem like a good place to arrest them.”

Arum 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.

Watch Cigarroa’s video statement here.

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