Report warned of rival cartel leaders

EL PASO, Texas -- A federal risk assessment of a now-canceled West Texas boxing match predicted it would draw leaders from two rival drug cartels, but noted the cartels had declared the event a "neutral zone," a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Friday.

The official, who is familiar with the contents of the report, spoke on condition of anonymity because the official isn't authorized to release the information. The official said the report was done by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations and given to University of Texas at El Paso police.

University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said Tuesday that the planned June 16 fight between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Andy Lee couldn't be held at the university's Sun Bowl in El Paso because of security risks. Cigarroa had released no details of the risk assessment report other than to say it contained a "higher than normal" security risk.

The report said leadership of both the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels would be present at the fight, but specified there were no specific threats to the security of the city, the event or those attending it, according to the law enforcement official. The cartels have waged a bloody war in Ciudad Juarez across the Rio Grande from El Paso for control of drug smuggling routes and other criminal enterprises in the city.

University of Texas at El Paso confirmed Friday that university police had received a federal report earlier this month, but declined to discuss its contents.

Homeland Security Investigations "sent a security assessment to UT System who sent it to us and it wasn't for another two weeks they (UT System) decided to cancel", said Veronique Masterson, a public information officer at UTEP.

El Paso city spokeswoman Julie Lozano declined comment and a University of Texas System spokesman did not immediately return telephone and e-mail messages.

Cigarroa's decision to cancel the fight without releasing any details angered El Paso officials and state lawmakers, who accused him of fostering a culture of fear that the city has been overrun by cartel-related violence. Despite the drug war raging in Mexico, the city ranks among the safest in the nation in terms of violent crime.

A day after the announcement, local state and federal law enforcement officials in El Paso, including a representative of ICE, said they had picked up no intelligence of a credible threat or security risk associated with having the fight in El Paso.

Joseph Arabit, the Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's El Paso division, said his agency had not received any information of specific threats surrounding the boxing match.

Pressure has been mounting on Cigarroa to reverse his decision. State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, an El Paso Democrat, urged the university board of regents to overrule the chancellor when they meet in Austin next week.

Fight promoter Bob Arum has called El Paso a natural place to host a fight with a popular Mexican boxer like Chavez, Jr. The 51,500-seat Sun Bowl drew more than 40,000 fans to watch Oscar de la Hoya fight in 1998.