By Jake Donovan
The hardest fought battle leading up to Saturday’s middleweight showdown between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Andy Lee was keeping the fight in its present location. Once it was decided that the card will take place at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, the rest was smooth sailing.
That very vibe was felt during Thursday’s final press conference, a light-hearted affair that featured mutual respect between camps and the mother of all organ grinders, who drew high praise from the HBO brass.
“If this fight is half as good as her playing, then we’re in for a great Saturday night,” quipped Peter Nelson, Director of Sports Programming at HBO.
Chavez Jr. and Lee immediately shook hands and politely posed for a stare down photo upon arriving to the press conference in downtown El Paso. From there, it was nothing but pleasantries offered from all participants and appreciation for the battle fought in keeping the show in town.
“It was in the summer of 2008 when it came to us that the violence in Juarez, Mexico had heightened,”explained Bill Blaziek, General Manager of El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Today those misconceptions and misinformation make us angry. That’s what happened eight weeks again when the show was summarily canceled due to the preface of violence in Mexico.
Thanks to a heck of a push from Blaziek and the fine folks of El Paso, the show will now go on as planned.
“I’m a little intimidated standing between two world class athletes and champions in their own right,” commented Blaziek while on stage in between the main event participants. “But El Paso is filled with fighters are well. To say we’re America’s safest city is a bit rhetorical. It’s not that we won a contest, but it’s how we live our lives.”
The assurance of proper safety precautions went a long way towards keeping the fight on the UTEP college campus. The City of El Paso has strongly rallied around the event, with 20,000 tickets already sold and the Visitor’s Bureau continuing to promote the event to its community.
All told, the turn of events proved to be a huge sigh of relief for both fighters. All they had to do… was train for the fight.
“I feel at home here in El Paso. All of the people here have been very nice to me,” commented Chavez Jr. (45-0-1, 31KO), who makes the third defense of his middleweight belt. “The thing I’m here to do is to pay back the people of El Paso for their love, by fighting hard and leaving here with my title.”
Naturally, Lee feels the same way about his own chances in what serves as his first-ever title shot.
“I’m glad the fight is here after all of the controversy,” noted Lee (28-1, 20KO). “This will be a successful event. We’ve left no stone unturned. We’ve worked very hard and I’m in tremendous shape. HBO has given me a tremendous opportunity and I plan to take full advantage of it. I’m here and I’m ready to win.”
Both fighters have endured their share of criticism in recent years for being sold as top middleweights despite lacking a signature win. Rather than allow people to believe the fighters seek to nibble around the edges, they agree to face one another head on while in the prime of their respective careers.
“This is what boxing is all about, having even fights between hungry fighters,” notes Chavez, who makes his fourth straight appearance on HBO and third straight in Texas. “I promise to give a war, and a war that I will win. I’ve been ready since 23 days ago to fight and I’m ready to fight right now.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]