Immigration flap forces Top Rank to move Benavidez’ homecoming out of Arizona

Concern from a sponsor and Mexican television network about controversy over Arizona’s immigration law is forcing Top Rank to move a July 17 card featuring the return of Phoenix prospect Jose Benavidez Jr. out of the state, promoter Bob Arum said.

Arum said he was told by Tecate, a Mexican beer company, and TV Azteca that they didn’t want the card in Arizona since the legislation, SB 1070, was signed into law in late April by Gov. Jan Brewer.

“As a company that promotes boxing, we’re apolitical,’’ Arum said. “But I was informed by Tecate and TV Azteca that they just don’t want us to originate anything from Arizona at this time.’’

Arum had announced on April 29 that he was planning for Benavidez to fight as a pro for the first time in his home state on July 17 on a TV Azteca-televised-card at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler, a Phoenix suburb.

Then, Arum said he would wait to see how the law would be applied. It won’t go into effect until after the scheduled card, or 90 days after Brewer signed it on April 23. However, there have been demonstrations against the law throughout Arizona and nationally by activists who say it will encourage racial profiling.

“For me, it’s ridiculous,’’ said Arum, who said a month ago that news reports indicated the legislation, if applied as written, prohibited profiling.

There are plans to move the July card to the Mexican city of Tijuana, according to TV Azteca. Other than boxing, Arizona has been threatened with boycotts involving other sports, including major league baseball’s 2011 All-Star Game in Phoenix. Several Suns fans threatened not to renew season tickets after the NBA team, currently in a tough series against the Los Angeles Lakers for the Western Conference title, wore uniforms that said “Los Suns”. The team, whose owner had announced his opposition to the law, wore the jersey during a playoff game against San Antonio on Cinco De Mayo.

Boxing has long been popular in Arizona, which has a big Mexican and Mexican-American fan base. Hall of Famer Michael Carbajal grew up in Phoenix. Alexis Arguello, Salvador Sanchez, Julio Cesar Chavez and Oscar De La Hoya all fought in either Phoenix and/or Tucson.

Benavidez, who just celebrated his 18th birthday, is anxious to fight in his hometown. He told Anson Wainwright in a Q-and-A for that “My goals for boxing are hopefully one day to be a world champion and give back to the people that were always there to support me. Hopefully have the chance to take a world title back home to Phoenix, AZ.’’

Benavidez said Thursday he was disappointed he won’t have a chance to fight in front of friends in July.

“They’ve called and told me how much they want to see me fight at home,’’ Benavidez (5-0, 5 KOs), a junior-welterweight, said before catching a flight for Chicago where he is scheduled for his sixth pro bout at UIC Pavilion against Ronnie Peterson (2-1-, 2 KOs) of Mounds View, Minn. “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 wouldn’t feel right about. I just think it’s wrong. Someday, it will happen. I’m sure of that’’

Benavidez, who has been living in Los Angeles and training at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Hollywood since signing with top Rank several months ago, plans to enter the ring wearing a T-shirt that expresses his opposition the law. The shirt is expected to say SB 1070 with a circle and slash through it. Abner Mares, a bantamweight from Los Angeles, wore the same kind of shirt before his majority draw last Saturday with Yonnhy Perez at Staples Center.

Benavidez’ father, Jose Sr., said everybody in his son’s corner will wear T-shirts with the same message.

“We’ll also have it put on my son’s trunks if we have the time and can find somebody in Chicago to do it before the bout,’’ said Jose Benavidez, Sr., who trained his son during his amateur days near downtown Phoenix at Central Boxing, just few blocks from the state capitol where crowds of demonstrators have gathered regularly since immigration became the only fight in Arizona.

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