EL PASO, Texas – The focus is finally back on WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and challenger Andy Lee after their summer bout in El Paso's Sun Bowl was temporarily scuttled by a dustup over security concerns.
"Hay pelea," promoter Bob Arum declared in the Spanish phrase for "The fight is on."
"There is going to be a fight, and it will be a terrific one," Arum said at a news conference Friday.
University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa triggered a war of words befitting a boxing match when he canceled the scheduled June 16 fight last week, citing security concerns without publicly offering any specifics. Local officials angrily protested, sensitive to the perception that border cities are unsafe because of the bloody battle among drug cartels in Mexico.
Cigarroa reversed the ban three days after his initial announcement, the same day a law enforcement official told The Associated Press that a federal risk assessment had warned that leaders of warring Mexican drug cartels would attend the bout.
"The mayor said several times it was about more than the fight. Now it is about the fight," said William Blaziek, general manager of El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Chavez Jr., the son of former world champion Julio Cesar Chavez, is 47-0, mostly recently earning a unanimous decision over fellow Mexican Marco Antonio Rubio in San Antonio in February. Lee is 28-1 and coming off a second-round knockout of Mexico's Saul Duran in March. He is one of the top-ranked middleweight contenders in the world.
Arum said he was expecting a "festive event" with music and fireworks. Officials anticipate a crowd of about 40,000, and they're still hoping to lift a ban on alcohol sales that Cigarroa set as a condition for allowing the fight at the University of Texas at El Paso's football stadium.
"What is the message here? That people in Austin can handle beer but people in El Paso can't?" Arum said, referring to criticism that UT officials singled out El Paso by allowing similar events on campus in other cities.
The fight will be televised in more than 170 countries, including Mexico, where Arum said Chavez Jr.'s last fight drew strong ratings.