Fight in Arizona is outside ring because of immigration law
TUCSON – Boxing returned and Arizona’s immigration fight continued Friday with a card that included two Mexicans who said WBC President Jose Sulaiman threatened to suspend them for fighting in the state.
Lightweight Genaro Trazancos of Mexico City and featherweight Adolfo Landeros of Hidalgo said they were told a few days before Friday’s opening bell that they faced a WBC suspension for defying a warning issued in late April by Sulaiman, who in a prepared statement said he would not authorize Mexicans to fight in Arizona after the state legislature passed SB 1070.
“That’s it, I guess,” Trazancos said through an interpreter after he lost to Filipino prospect Mercito Gesta at Casino Del Sol in a seventh-round stoppage televised by TeleFutura. “I guess, I’m suspended.
“Believe me, I strongly support Mexican migrants. They have to work for a living. So do I.”
Trazancos, a 35-year-old veteran of 36 fights (23-12-1, 13 knockouts) said he did not know whether the threatened suspension would keep him off any card in Mexico or just those sanctioned by the WBC, a Mexico City-based organization.
“But it is Mexico, so you never know,” he said.
Neither Trazancos nor Landeros had any second thoughts about fighting in Tucson on the first card televised in the state since April 23, when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the legislation, which opponents say encourages racial profiling.
“I already had signed to fight here,” Landeros (24-15-1, 9 KOs) a featherweight from Hidalgo, said through an interpreter after he was upset in a loss by unanimous decision to Noe Lopez, a late stand-in for injured prospect Michael Franco. “I was obligated. If I had not fought here, I don’t know when I would be able to fight in the United States, for a U.S. promoter, again.
“The pay in Mexico isn’t that good anyway. Besides, this is how I make my living. I have to work.”
Lopez, who is from Nogales on the Mexican side of the border about 75 miles south of Tucson, said he was not contacted by the WBC before he agreed Friday morning to fight on the Don Chargin-promoted card. Lopez said he was only aware of Sulaiman’s warning from reports on the internet. Even if he had been threatened with a WBC suspension, he said he would have fought in Tucson.
“I’m not worried about it,” Lopez said, also through an interpreter. “This is what I do. It’s how I support myself and my family.”
Neither Sulaiman nor anybody on his WBC staff in Mexico City responded to e-mails seeking a response to the warning he issued to Mexicans planning to fight in Arizona. Trazancos said he learned second hand of Sulaiman’s threatened suspension.
“People around me told me about it,” Trazancos said.
Landeros said he found about it by reading a story in his hometown newspaper.
“Then, I tried to call Sulaiman,” Landeros said. “I left a message. But I haven’t heard from him.”
Chargin said he heard about the threat after he arrived in Tucson a few days before the card.
“Silly,” said Chargin, who plans to return to Casino De Sol with a promotion on either Sept. 24 or Oct 1. “So what are these kids supposed to do? Quit earning a living?”
Chargin said he was told that Sulaiman threatened to suspend Trazancos and Landeros for five years.
“We called the fighters when we heard about this and both said: ‘Hey we’re coming. They don’t put any food on our table,'” Chargin said.
The threatened suspension comes in the wake of a federal judge, Susan Bolton, issuing an injunction on July 28 that delays implementation of the bill’s key elements, which mandates Arizona police ask for documentation from anybody stopped for reasonable suspicion. The Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco will review the legislation and is expected to issue a ruling on its constitutionality.
On the day the injunction was issued, the controversy, as it relates to boxing, was fueled by comments from Oscar De La Hoya during a news conference in Las Vegas before Juan Manuel Marquez’s victory on July 31 over Juan Diaz, a Mexican-American who criticized the law in a guest editorial for the Houston Chronicle, his hometown newspaper.
De La Hoya said there was “racism” in the Arizona law. Sergio Mora echoed De La Hoya’s comments a few days later in Las Vegas during a news conference for his Sept. 18 fight with Shane Mosley at Los Angeles’ Staples Center. Without being asked, Mora said there was “latent racism” in the legislation.
“It’s ignorant,” Mora said.
The controversy, which includes demonstrations against the Diamondbacks at road games and an ongoing attempt to force major league baseball to pull the 2011 All-Star Game out of Phoenix, already has had an impact on boxing in Arizona, once a lively market and home to Hall of Fame junior-flyweight Michael Carbajal.
A Top Rank card featuring junior-welterweight prospect Jose Benavidez, a Phoenix native, was pulled out of the state. Benavidez, who has been living in Los Angeles and training with Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym, was scheduled to make his hometown debut on July 17 at Wild Horse Pass Casino in Chandler, a Phoenix suburb.
Top Rank’s Bob Arum said concern from a sponsor and Mexican television network about the controversy forced him to move the card.
Arum said he was told by Tecate, a Mexican beer, and TV Azteca, that they didn’t want the card in Arizona because of SB 1070.
“As a company that promotes boxing, we’re apolitical,” Arum said after the cancellation in late May. “But I was informed by Tecate at TV Azteca that they just don’t want us to originate anything from Arizona at this time.”
Tecate was the primary sponsor for the TeleFutura show Friday in Tucson. The company declined to comment. A spokesperson said it was company policy not to comment on “any political or legislative topics.”
Benavidez, disappointed in July, is eager to make his hometown debut. He has heard from friends.
“They’ve called and told me how much they want to see me fight at home,” said Benavidez (7-0), who has been at home training for the last several days at Central Boxing just a few blocks from streets where anti-SB 1070 activists have demonstrated in front of the state capitol. “Either way, I’m pretty sure people would come to see me. But it’s just not a good thing with everything going on in Arizona right now.
“It’s just something I would feel right about. I just think it’s wrong. I’m sure of that.”
Since the July 17 card was canceled, Benavidez and his dad, Jose Sr., expressed their opposition to the law. At a victory over Ronnie Peterson in Chicago on May 29, Benavidez and his dad wore T-shirts that included SB 1070 covered by a circle and a slash. The same symbol of opposition has shown up on shirts and trunks of Mexican and Mexican-American boxers everywhere.
Abner Mares, a bantamweight from Los Angeles, wore it on the back of a T-shirt before his majority draw on May 22 with Yonnhy Perez at Staples Center. It was on the trunks of at least one Mexican-American making a debut last month on a small Phoenix card featuring former Arizona amateurs in the initial stages of their pro careers.
Chargin said he plans to continue promoting in Tucson because he said he has always been welcome at Casino Del Sol, which is on land owned and governed by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. The tribe has its own commission with rules that mirror those followed by the Arizona State Boxing Commission.
The state’s regulatory agency has agreements with other tribes to oversee boxing, including Desert Diamond south of Tucson, where De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions staged a series of cards for a few years. Last summer, Golden Boy had trouble getting license for fighters from countries other than U.S. A work visa instead of tourist visa was required.
Prospect Erislandy Lara, a Cuban, could not get a work visa in time for a scheduled fight last August at Desert Diamond. Since, then, Dennis O’Connell, the Arizona commission’s new executive director, said fighters only have to prove “legal presence,” meaning they can again get licensed with a tourist visa, which is easier and cheaper to acquire than a work permit.
But controversy over SB 1070 has complicated the chances at resurrecting the Arizona market, which in its heyday included Salvador Sanchez, Alexis Arguello and a young De La Hoya. Casino De Sol’s officials are hopeful that the property’s relative independence from state governance and perhaps controversy could play a role in bringing back a business that has been mostly dormant for at least a year.
“We’d be more than willing to talk to the WBC,” said Wendell Long, CEO for Casino Del Sol. “We’re on sovereign land. We’re a safe haven.”