Valero: intense, unpredictable and extremely violent
(Photo: Edwin Valero's life story was made into a film in 2016 Pa' Los Panas Productions)
Edwin Valero’s undeniable talent was eventually eclipsed by the violence that defined him. But had tragedy not intervened and Valero had tussled with the elite of his time, how would he have fared? Daniel Morley delves into the turbulent life of the Venezuelan puncher...
Before knocking out every fighter he would ever face as a professional, Edwin Valero began his life fighting on the rough streets of Merida, Venezuela.
During his younger days, Valero constructed a terrifying aura through a furious, irrepressible temper and an intense fury, frequently exerted when holding up and robbing local civilians alongside fellow youths in motorcycle gangs. Street fights were part of his customary routine, with Valero’s furious intensity and heavy hands earning him frequent success in such brawls.
It was at the age of 12 when Valero found a productive way to unshackle his fiery rage - the boxing gym. It was here that he began to find stability in his life, and also where he could unleash his fierce aggression and maximise the inhumane assets he was blessed with.
His abilities were raw and intense, allowing him to unleash blistering combinations from a spiteful, southpaw stance; their impact was devastating and constant, albeit wild. Valero had been blessed with hellacious force in his fists and extremely impressive stamina; these gifts forged an aggressive, attacking style of fighting which consistently delivered knockouts.
It wasn’t long before Venezuela’s top coaches noticed Valero’s raw talents, jumping at the opportunity to take the young protégé under their wing, hoping to polish the raw talents and create a superstar. Eventually, after reportedly racking up an impressive amateur record of 86-6 (with 57 KOs) whilst weighing just 120lbs, Valero decided to turn to the professional ranks.
Disaster struck almost immediately though - on 5 February 2001 Valero was involved in a serious motorcycle accident in which he wasn’t wearing a helmet. He fractured his skull and surgery was required to remove a blood clot from his head. He survived, but the consequential trauma was later rumoured to have ingrained an everlasting impact on Valero's mental state, which possibly contributed to the increasingly disturbing and erratic behaviour in his later life.
Valero's quest to become a professional boxer proved rather difficult due to the high levels of risk linked with his health issues. Eventually, though, Valero convinced the authorities in Venezuela to allow him to fight and in July 2002 he made his debut, destroying Eduardo Hernandez in one round.
Valero exploded on to the boxing scene, scoring a staggering 18 consecutive first-round knockouts in his first 18 fights - an achievement which earned him a world record, besting New Yorker Arthur 'Young Otto' Susskind’s mark set in 1905.
In his next fight Valero was finally taken out of the first round by Gennaro Trazancos, but the Mexican's achievement was short lived, as a straight left hand shattered his solar plexus in just the second stanza.
Valero, now boasting a record of 19-0 (19KOs), was then pencilled in to challenge sturdy Panamanian WBA super featherweight champion Vicente Mosquera in Panama City. However, at the same time, Valero's malicious temperament was beginning to work against him as rumours spread that his sparring partners were receiving terrible beatings, many in fact being knocked out intentionally.
Former world title challengers Juan Lazcano and Urbano Antillon were both rumoured to have been unnecessarily hurt and even Mexican legend Erik Morales was said to have suffered a broken nose at the hands of Valero. These whispers spread round the boxing world like a plague, scaring many potential sparring partners away.
Regardless of sparring troubles, the Mosquera fight took place on 5 August 2006. Valero overwhelmed his opponent early on and looked set to earn his 19th first round KO after scoring two early knockdowns, but the champion proved a worthy competitor and roared back, dropping Valero just two rounds later.
Valero responded by showing a champion's heart, climbing off the canvas for the first time in his career and clawing his way back into the fight before eventually scoring a tenth-round TKO to snatch the WBA crown.
That belt was successfully defended four times before the WBC lightweight title became vacant and Valero moved up in weight, blitzing Antonio Pitalua in two rounds to claim his second world championship.
Valero defeated lightweight veteran Hector Velasquez and future champion Antonio De Marco in the final two bouts of his career, by which point his record stood at a perfect 27-0 with 27KOs.
Superstardom awaited Valero, as he eyed mouth-watering showdowns and mega pay-days against superstars such as Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.
Worryingly, though, Valero's violent tendencies seemed to have been creeping back into his personal life - claims were made in both 2009 and 2010 accusing him of assaulting women and domestically abusing his wife Jennifer.
The allegations were denied by Valero, but many felt he was let off lightly by the authorities due to his popular reputation as a sporting hero in Venezuela.
However, it was on 18 April 2010 that Valero's most disturbing atrocity would take place.
Both he and Jennifer checked into a hotel in Valencia, Venezuela. Hours later Valero allegedly approached the reception area, calmly claiming to have murdered his wife.
She was found dead in her room, suffering from three fatal stab wounds, Valero was instantly arrested. The next day he was found dead in his prison cell, his trousers wrapped around his neck hanging from the ceiling. His death was officially ruled as suicide.
Valero's short life left many questions unanswered and perhaps unanswerable.
Why would a man who had everything, throw it all away in such a cowardly, horrendous act of violence?
Was his unpredictable violent nature a result of brain damage or just a reflection of the nasty temperament of a man who enjoyed hurting others?
How would Valero have fared against the elite boxers at lightweight, such as Pacquiao and Marquez?
His achievements in boxing were undeniably impressive, comprising a 100 per cent knockout ratio and two legitimate world titles - such successes speak volumes about Valero's ability.
Crucially, however, the Venezuelan was never truly tested at the very top of the game, leaving us to ponder whether his wild swings would have been precisely countered by the technically brilliant Marquez and whether Pacquiao’s spellbinding speed of hand and foot would have bewildered the fiery Venezuelan.
Perhaps - had he lived - boxing history would have been rewritten and Valero would have become a true legend of the sport, rather than a cult curiosity.
Interestingly the slick skills he often displayed in sparring seemed to vanish on fight night, instead merging into a blistering tornado of fury. Whether such an approach would have reaped dividends against the likes of Marquez or Pacquiao - like many questions associated with Valero - will forever remain unanswered.
We will never know whether the wasted talent of this mysterious man was capable of ruling some of boxing’s most competitive weight divisions. Perhaps all we do know for sure is that Valero's life followed the same course as every one of his fights - intense, unpredictable and cut short through extreme violence.