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El Paso boxing match draws crowd despite fears of violence

June 17, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • A boxing fan gets a pat-down from a security agent before entering the Sun Bowl for the bout between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Andy Lee in El Paso, Texas. Security was tight, and no major problems were reported.
A boxing fan gets a pat-down from a security agent before entering the Sun… (Juan Carlos Llorca / Associated…)

HOUSTON -- Saturday night's middleweight boxing championship at El Paso's Sun Bowl proved far tamer than some had expected.

The match between reigning World Boxing Council champion Julio César Chávez Jr. and Irish challenger Andy Lee was nearly canceled by the University of Texas system's chancellor in April because of security concerns -- specifically, Chavez's girlfriend's connections to the Sinaloa drug cartel.

But the city that bills itself as the safest in America mustered civic forces to get the chancellor to reverse himself, promote ticket sales and keep the fight in town -- albeit without alcohol.

At least 13,000 tickets were sold in advance, officials announced Saturday, and the final crowd was 13,467 -- far fewer than the 20,000 many had hoped would attend.

Still, many in attendance said they were thrilled to see El Paso host the championship.

“Nothing like this has ever happened! Nothing this big, especially someone who [is] Hispanic like César Chavez,” Maggie Garcia of El Paso told Fox News Latino.

Garcia said she was a bit concerned about safety when she arrived.

“I am a little worried. You never know,” she said.

Announcer Lupe Contreras reminded fans that El Paso is the safest city in America before every fight on Saturday night's card, according to the El Paso Times, which covered the event live via Twitter.

University police provided security at the Sun Bowl with help from several other agencies.

“It’s not uncommon for special events, like the Sun Bowl, stadium concerts we have here, boxing matches, events like that, to have this type of security. It’s not just El Paso, it’s large cities with large events,” Veronique Masterson, spokeswoman for the university, told Fox News.

She and other university spokesmen could not be reached Sunday.

Spectators were inspected and patted down at the door. No alcohol was sold, even though Mexican beer maker Tecate sponsored the event.

Many fans said they felt safe, and no major problems were reported.

“I know there’s a lot of security; it’s not a big deal,” spectator José Aguino told Fox News.

The crowd at the stadium, which is about 500 yards from the border, included a good number of "Juarenses," Mexican residents of neighboring Ciudad Juarez who came to cheer for Chavez, a Sinaloa native and son of the legendary boxer.

Enrique López, a UTEP commuter student, waved a Mexican flag with his friends in the stands.

“He’s the son of a legend, Julio César Chávez.” López told Fox News. “I followed him since I was little.”

In the end, Chavez fans were rewarded: He won the fight in the seventh round. 

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