El Paso took a tremendous punch when a scheduled championship boxing match between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Andy Lee was canceled Tuesday morning.
The fight was canceled because of heightened security issues, according to the University of Texas System's public affairs office.
Fans attending a news conference for the boxing match on Tuesday at the Sun Bowl booed the decision when it was announced.
"After consultation with the University of Texas System officials, it was determined the Sun Bowl on the UTEP campus is not the appropriate venue for the Chavez Jr. and Lee professional boxing match," according to a statement from the UT System.
Bob Arum, head of Top Rank Boxing, had strong words for the UT System
"We asked what security concerns. They wouldn't tell us," Arum said. "But you don't need to be a genius to know that's a code word for people coming over the border to watch the fight."
Arum claimed the fact that Chavez Jr. would bring a huge audience from Juarez was the real concern.
"What was done (Tuesday) morning is an absolute disgrace on the state of Texas and its university system," Arum said. "They are making a statement that they don't want the people from Juarez to come over here to watch an event, plain and simple. Let them try to dispute that."
Late Tuesday the University of Texas System issued the following statement regarding the determination that the Sun Bowl on the UT El Paso Campus is not the appropriate venue for the Chavez, Jr., and Lee professional boxing match:
"A specific event risk assessment was performed and 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. The decision was not made by the UT System Board of Regents. It was made by University of Texas System Administration officials.
Furthermore, this decision should not be generalized to other events at UTEP or other UT institution facilities. If there was an elevated risk determination associated with any event hosted by the other 14 UT institutions, the same decision would have been made."
Chavez Jr. and Lee expressed disappointment about the cancelation and Chavez Jr.'s legendary father said he felt the decision was racially motivated.
El Paso philanthropist Paul Foster, who is a member of the UT Board of Regents, said the decision to cancel was made by UT System Administration officials and that he was personally disappointed by that decision.
Foster issued a statement saying in part, "I know that risk assessments by the UT system are carried out for all UT campuses, not just for UTEP, and I have been assured that this cancelation is event-specific. This should not be seen as a negative reflection on our community or on UTEP."
Richard Adauto, UTEP Executive Vice President Legal Affairs and Oversight, said the school plans to appeal the decision.
"We're very comfortable putting on major events on this campus," Adauto said. "It's a safe venue. We've had many conversations with the UT System regarding this event and we'll see how this plays out."
Tuesday night, Adauto did not sound hopeful that the event could be revived for the Sun Bowl.
Adauto said it was an unusual step for the UT System to get involved.
"They typically don't OK any event we have," Adauto said. "They felt like whatever threat they've identified, if any, is some extraordinary threat ... I don't know what it is."
William Blaziek, the general manager of the El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau, was shocked at the decision to cancel the boxing match.
"The decision by the University of Texas System Chancellor to cancel the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Andy Lee fight on June 16 citing concerns of safety and that the UTEP campus is not the appropriate venue for this event came as a shock to the Convention and Visitors Bureau," Blaziek 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. Additionally Sun Bowl Stadium is more than just a campus venue - it is a community venue hosting the nationally significant Sun Bowl Football Bowl game and community events such as Monster Jam, the Rolling Stones, and soccer matchups. We call upon the UT System to reconsider its decision."
The fight had been scheduled to take place on June 16 at the Sun Bowl. Chavez Jr. had originally been scheduled to fight Martin Murray but Murray had to pull out of the fight out when he could not get a visa to fight in the United States because of his time in prison.
Boxing promoter Lester Bedford said even if the Chavez Jr.-Lee fight cannot be held in El Paso that he and Top Rank Boxing will continue to work to bring other bouts to El Paso.
ABC-7 Reporters Gaby Loria and Darren Hunt contributed to this report