The University of Texas System Chancellor's initial decision in April to cancel the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Andy Lee fight at the Sun Bowl did not just happen all of a sudden on Tuesday, April 24.
There was a flurry of activity the night before and immediately after the decision was announced that led to several prominent El Pasoans demanding answers from UT Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa.
Cigarroa cited security concerns for canceling the fight but his decision was met with resistance.
ABC-7's I Team received a stack of emails from the UT System through an open records request to find out what Cigarroa and his staff, as well as El Paso government officials and businessmen, were saying to each other before and after Cigarroa's cancellation decision.
Some emails have a few paragraphs redacted, while other emails are completely blacked out.
The apparent cancellation of the fight was announced April 24 when Top Rank Boxing's Bob Arum greeted reporters and fans at a Sun Bowl news conference with the ominous statement "I come with good news and bad news."
Based on emails and from what UTEP officials told ABC-7, UTEP was already trying to save the fight a week before that.
In fact, the night before the announcement, emails between Cigarroa and UTEP President Diana Natalicio show they were trying to coordinate a time to talk that night about the boxing match until about 9 that evening.
The rest of El Paso learned the news on April 24. By that afternoon, City Rep. Steve Ortega had sent an email to UTEP's top administrators, including President Natalico, saying "the decision places the university and the city in a terrible light and contravenes the work we are doing to promote El Paso." Ortega reminds UTEP officials of the city's decision to include $50 million of Sun Bowl improvements to a proposed bond. "Two council members have already asked me why we should invest in a UT asset if the UT board of Regents is going to denigrate use of that asset," he wrote.
UT administrators then emailed each other at about the same time about the near immediate reaction to the cancellation: "We are now getting angry elected officials calling. Sen. (Jose) Rodriguez left a message..."
By about 5:30 p.m., UT Regent and El Paso businessman Paul Foster emailed Cigarroa and also reminded him that the City has included $50 million for the Sun Bow stadium a bond initiative.
"I have received calls from the mayor, the city manager, and from numerous city councilmen, as well as a number of reporters. They are all asking, "why did the board of regents make this decision, can we get in front of them to ask them to reconsider, and do they realize this will impact the city's relationship with UTEP?"
Cigarroa wrote back, saying he'd spoken to City Manager Joyce Wilson and State Rep. Dee Margo and was preparing a statement.
The day after the announcement, El Paso leaders began a movement to save the fight.
"The damage he is doing to the community is significant," El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar said in a news conference that day.
Before 9 a.m. April 25, UT officials alerted Cigarroa, via email, that Congressman Silvestre Reyes wanted to talk to him. State Rep. Joe Pickett was also trying to get a hold of the chancellor.
By 2 p.m., Cigarroa received a letter signed by the entire El Paso delegation that called his decision "ill-informed, baseless and destructive... it is shameful..."
Also on that day, President of the Hunt Family Foundation and businessman Josh Hunt sent a pointed email to Cigarroa.
"...We are safer than your hometown of Laredo... I for one will advocate strongly that as a city, we no longer allow people from Austin, or Washington, or New York to define us. It is completely unfair for others to tell us how "unsafe" it is in what is truthfully the safest place to live in this country," the letter partly reads.
El Paso's FBI Special Agent in Charge Mark A. Morgan said on April 25 that there was 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 April 25 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 fallout continued on Thursday, April 26 when businessman and UTEP Development board chairman Leonard "Tripper" Goodman wrote to Cigarroa that his decision was "offensive", and that he has not shown understanding of how a border community operates.
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."
On April 27, Cigarroa announced that the Sun Bowl could host the boxing match if certain conditions were met.
The conditions were:
-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;