On Saturday, June 16, boxers Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. and Andy Lee will clash in a highly anticipated match at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas, scheduled to air on HBO. However, before Chavez, Jr. and Lee could get into the ring, El Paso had to do a little fighting for itself to keep this bout in our beloved City.
You see, after the fight was scheduled in El Paso, Texas, (America's Safest City I might add) the University of Texas System Chancellor, Francisco Cigarroa, cancelled the fight in El Paso citing an "elevated security risk." This didn't make sense and seemed to contradict our Safest City Ranking. It didn't make sense to me, it didn't make sense to the rest of our city's leadership, and most importantly, it didn't make sense to El Pasoans. That is because for the second year in a row, the CQ Press (FBI Uniform Crime Statistics) ranked El Paso, Texas as the safest large city in the U.S. with a population of more than 500,000.
The distinction of being the safest city in the United States is not a contest we won. It is the way we live our lives. And we have the track record to prove it. It is a fact that we haven't ranked out of the top three, since 1997. Year after year, we are heavyweight contenders in the realm of safest cities.
We cannot go on having people's perceptions outside of our community lag behind reality. We cannot have people believe that El Paso is an unsafe and undesirable place to live and visit.
So what did we do? We fought back.
The fight was on. The fight was on not only to save the fight itself, but the fight was on to save El Paso's reputation.
And it was at that point that El Paso rallied, coming together in a way I've never seen before. I gathered with various leaders in this community to get our fight back. We scheduled a press conference that included our City Manager, various City Council members, representatives of our County and State delegations, the Chamber of Commerce, our Convention and Visitors Bureau, the FBI, DEA, Homeland Security, along with other area leaders. We wanted to get the message out that we were serious about keeping this fight in our City, and serious about deterring others from outside of our community to negatively label our City, based on inaccurate perceptions. And you know what? It worked. They heard us loud and clear and we won our fight - by unanimous decision!
And after all that mounting pressure, the University of Texas System Chancellor, Francisco Cigarroa, declared the match was back on in El Paso, Texas, "The Safest City in the United States." Now, area leaders have rallied in an attempt to sellout Sun Bowl Stadium, which has a (staged) capacity of more than 30,000. In support of the ticket sales rally, local businesses have been buying block tickets for employees. And Operation H.O.P.E., a local non-profit charity, purchased 200 tickets for the Fort Bliss Wounded Warrior Project.
Now the world will get to see undefeated Chavez, Jr., the son of famed boxer Julio Cesar Chavez, who is beloved in his native country of Mexico and has earned the nickname La Leyenda Continua (The Legend Continues). They will get to see him in El Paso, which sits on the US/Mexico border. This allows Chavez Jr.'s Mexican and American fans to see him in an attempt to preserve his undefeated record. Local businesses will greatly benefit from the increased economic activity from visitors to El Paso, as the match is expected to have a $4.5 million economic impact.
El Paso will be center stage on this Saturday, June 16, and our city will have the opportunity to show the world how it came together to fight against what it feels is the wrong perception of our community. Plus, it keeps this much-anticipated boxing match in the venue where it was planned and promoted. As the sun sets in El Paso on June 16, with the world watching, Chavez, Jr. and Lee will enter the ring and El Paso residents will watch with a proud victory already under their belt.