A June 16 fight between WBC world middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Andy Lee will not happen in El Paso as scheduled after the University of Texas System chancellor blocked the use of the Sun Bowl, promoters said Tuesday.
Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa contacted Texas-El Paso officials one hour before Top Rank was to hold a news conference to announce the fight, Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said.
Citing security concerns over border violence, Cigarroa told UTEP officials the bout could not take place with UTEP facilities, Moretti said.
Moretti said Top Rank is searching for another venue for the June 16 fight. Houston and San Antonio are being considered, and arrangements should be made by the weekend, he said.
Moretti said the move was unique in his experience in boxing promotions, "and I've been in it for 25 years. I can tell you the people from UTEP were as amazed as we were and as shocked as we were."
The directive was the result of "a specific-event risk assessment," according to a UT System statement.
"The conclusion was that the risk was higher than normal. Based on this assessment, the decision was made that the university and Sun Bowl would not be an appropriate venue for this specific event," according to the statement.
A UTEP statement confirmed the UT System directive and referred further questions to system officials.
The move drew fire from officials along the West Texas border.
The decision "came as a shock to the Convention and Visitors Bureau," said William Blaziek, general manager of the bureau, said in a statement. "Implying that border violence is reason for cancellation is inflammatory and damaging to the image and reputation of El Paso and is not based in fact. El Paso has consistently been named the safest city in the United States."
Said state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso: "This is just one more example of what happens when our state leaders disregard the facts by falsely calling border communities 'war zones' without any evidence to support their claims."
The 26-year-old Chavez is the son of former light welterweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez. He is unbeaten in 46 bouts, which include 31 knockouts and one draw. In his last fight, the Culiacan, Mexico, fighter beat fellow Mexican Marco Antonio in a unanimous decision in San Antonio Feb. 4.
The 27-year-old Lee is an Irish middleweight, who is 28-1 with 20 knockouts.