Boxing’s Brightest Lights Shine In — and For — El Paso [OPINION/VIDEO]
The Plaza Theater's organ belted out old time movie music as the grand old theater itself provided an artistic backdrop to what is usually a testosterone-drenched affair -- a boxing press conference. It was an interesting departure from the sterile conference rooms where these events are usually held.
Given a big enough hotel or civic hall, it would be easy to get lost among convention rooms separated only by their mundane names -- usually indigenous plants or wildlife.
But there's no mistaking the Plaza for the Pine Room, especially when you can zero in on the throaty staccato runs of "The Irish Washerwoman" played by the big Wurlitzer.
Much like those two re-polished El Paso jewels, the city is now finding ways to dust itself off and reclaim its reputation, and to sparkle in the face of sometimes deliberate and insulting neglect.
How else to explain the bizarre decision by University of Texas System Chancellor, Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, to lift his initial ban of the Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.-Andy Lee WBC middleweight championship at the Sun Bowl, but to ban alcohol anywhere on the UTEP campus.
The decision is insulting on so many different levels, first and foremost because it obviously has nothing to do with security threats. Not that it ever did. If so, wouldn't Dr. Cigarroa feel compelled to share this intelligence with, oh maybe, the El Paso office of the FBI? It would have been news to them.
Maybe Dr. Cigarroa fears the news about El Paso relative to what's happening south of the border -- news that usually emanates from Austin or, worse yet, Washington D.C. News that is usually fashioned by ignorance or with a political agenda.
So, then, what is he afraid of? We can't handle our beer? They can handle it in Austin, home to another recent boxing match that was allowed to sell suds, but not in El Paso?
Outside of geography, what's the difference between these two Texas cities --
other than one is close to 90% Hispanic and the other is not?
Oops, did I just say that?
Yes, and so did fight promoter Bob Arum.
The Top Rank CEO believes the initial ban was a slap in the face of his family. Arum's son, Dr. Richard Arum, is a sociologist specializing in college education at New York University.
Dr. Arum wrote a particularly scathing attack on Cigarroa and the UT System's approach to instruction, alleging that there is very little of it. According to Dr. Arum, UT System professors are pushed to research, detracting from their impact as teachers.
Bob Arum has no doubt that Dr. Cigarroa took the opportunity the Chavez-Lee fight presented to fire back at the Arums. But having bowed to pressure to reinstate the fight at the Sun Bowl, Arum maintains that banning beer sales is a slap in the the face of the Laredo native's own familia.
Whether or not the decision is tied to race, the Tale of the Tape doesn't lie in showing who the beer ban's quarter-million-dollar gut punch hurts financially.
It's not Bob Arum, who doesn't make a dime off of beer sales. It's the UTEP Athletic Department.
Bully for us, then. Because of Cigarroa's rancorous decision, the City of El Paso will use some of its hotel-motel tax war chest to sponsor the spectacle. It shows we've learned a few things from events like the Hyundai Sun Bowl about making the most of having a national -- in this case, international -- spotlight.
The sports PR campaign that will now be waged in part by HBO and Top Rank will allow El Paso to show off the precious mettle this city is made of. Under those klieg lights, it's bound to shine through whatever gets heaped on top.