The Rise and Demise of Edwin Valero

Many people complain of a hard upbringing, most claim these arduous beginnings can make or break you. The early marks left on the human body and mind play a paramount role in what we become. Edwin Valero was no different, born on the 3rd of December 1981 into a life of poverty. Like many South American boxers before him, he would be raised the hard way. Sharing a two-bedroom house with his four siblings, his mother, and father.

This would change when Edwin turned seven, his parents split, the difficult situation that his once complete family had faced, now got a whole lot worse without the man of the house around to fill that fatherly role. Education was no longer an option as survival now had to take precedence, helping his mother by selling fruit, a means of employment all too familiar in those parts. By twelve, the troubled child had become homeless, this is in one of the most dangerous countries in the world. At thirteen Valero would get his first taste of organised combat, taking up Tae Kwon Do. Unfortunately, the financial burden was too much and Edwin had to give it up.

He gained employment in a bicycle shop, the owner of which was a former boxer. It was this former boxer who directed the future champion to his first boxing gym.

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Like the cost of lessons meant Edwin couldn’t afford to continue at Tae Kwon Do, it was the cost of public transport that almost meant that boxing lessons too had to stop. However, Oscar Ortega, Valero’s boxing coach, would give Valero a chance. He would let Edwin and his brother Edward live at the gym, even issuing them with a key. Valero soon showed star talent, and as an amateur, he won three national amateur championships. He narrowly missed going to the Olympics when, future IBF champion Valdemir Pereiro, beat him on a points decision. Whilst his boxing career was looking bright his life outside of the ring was still chaotic, something he would later become renowned for.

Robbery and motorcycle theft were popular pass times, even opting to keep the stolen motorcycles in the gym he now called home. He wouldn’t evade the law for long though, by fifteen years old he had been jailed an estimated dozen times, each time relying on his amateur coach to bail him out.

One prison sentence imparticular scared the future star from a life of crime, the reason and length of stay however depends on who you believe. Edwin himself maintains it was a six-month sentence for motorcycle theft, other reports suggest it was a seven-month sentence for assaulting a woman at gunpoint. Whichever is true, it was clear that Valero had a less than perfect childhood and crime was seemingly a way of life.

In 2001 Valero would suffer injuries in a road traffic accident, injuries that would rob him from dream fights in America. Edwin, riding a motorcycle at 50mph, would collide into the back of a car. The impact would throw the helpless rider an estimated twenty feet and he would sustain injuries that would require thirteen weeks in the hospital.

The ninth of July 2002, Valero makes his professional debut, a debut that would last just two minutes. ‘Dinamita’ was living up to his name, a first-round KO, this first-round knockout would be the start of a record-breaking streak of first-round knockouts. It would be his nineteenth bout before someone would take him past the first round, and then that bout only went to the second. Valero’s twentieth bout would see him contest for his first world title, the fight would get off to the perfect start for Valero, knocking down Vicente Mosquero twice in the first round. This fight wasn’t going to be that easy and the third round saw Valero visit the canvas. Edwin then opted to, untypically, box on the outside as opposed to his usual Gung Ho approach. The decision paid off and in the tenth round, the fight was stopped Edwin Valero was now the WBA Super Featherweight Champion of the World.

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Valero would defend his crown four times, each time successfully, each time by stoppage. The boxing world was starting to pay attention to the hard-hitting Venezuelan. His next fight would see two firsts, his first fight at lightweight and his first fight on American soil. Despite previous attempts to fight in the USA being halted on medical grounds (the 2001 motorcycle left permanent damage to his skull), the Texan authorities were satisfied that Edwin was ok to fight. The opponent was Antonio Pitalua, at stake was the vacant WBC Lightweight Title. It would take Dinamita less than two whole rounds to finish his man and become a two-weight world champion. A routine defence in Hector Velazquez was next, a bout that Valero would dominate, leading to another stoppage win. Humberto Soto was the planned next opponent for the unbeaten Lightweight Champion, planned for the undercard of Miguel Cotto V Manny Pacquiao card in vegas but Valeros out of ring activities would hamper his career again. A visa application was denied due to a DUI charge in Texas, apparently, Valero had crashed a motor vehicle into a tree and was found with an illegal firearm, these convictions meant any chance of a visa had been destroyed.

Instead, Valero ended up facing Antonio De Marco in Mexico in what would end up being his last fight. The fight was a spectacle, assisted by a flailing elbow from the challenger which saw Valeros forehead split open and blood began to soak the WBC champion. It would take more than blood to stop the rampant Valero tough and at the end of the ninth De Marco had taken enough. He retired, brutally beaten by the devastating power and relentless stamina of the champion.

Massive fights beckoned with names such as Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez and Timothy Bradley being whispered as potential opponents. However, it was his demons who Valero would face next and he would lose in tragic fashion. It was no secret that Edwin was a hot-headed aggressive man, he seemed to take extreme pleasure in inflicting pain on his opponent. This didn’t stop when he left the ring, his long-suffering wife was the victim of his violent tempers. This led to the police visiting Edwin on more than one occasion. In 2010, his wife Jennifer was admitted to hospital with bite marks, bruising and a broken rib that had punctured her lung. The reason she gave for these injuries, well the bite marks were from an attempted robbery and the broken rib from a fall down the stairs. This wasn’t the first time she had suffered a serious injury, she had suffered a bullet wound to her left leg a few years earlier.

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When Edwin attending the hospital to visit his wife he ended up in an altercation with the medical staff which led to his arrest. A confrontation with a traffic officer led to his admission to a psychiatric ward. The plan was for six months of treatment to assist with depression and alcohol abuse. Nine days later Edwin Valero left the hospital. This decision was probably pivotal in how this story ends. The Venezuelan government decided to arrange for the troubled star to attend a drug and rehabilitation program in Cuba but before the day of the flight arrived Edwin had been involved in another traffic incident, again whilst under the influence of alcohol.

Another flight was rescheduled and this time a police escort arranged to ensure his safe arrival. Edwin Valero would lose the escort and instead check-in at Hotel Intercontinental in the City of Valencia. This would soon be the location of a tragic scene, a scene that would see the death of Valero’s wife. Edwin would lose consciousness due to Alchohol and Cocaine use, six hours later, covered in blood he would visit the hotel reception and reportedly confess to stabbing his wife three times. A confession he would soon deny. The police were called and the two-weight world champion was arrested, he would tell his cousin that thugs had followed him to the hotel and killed his wife, a story that was in stark contrast to that of which he told the hotel staff earlier. He would maintain this story when questioned by police also admitting the loss of memory due to drug and alcohol abuse. For his own safety his shoelaces and jacket were removed as police feared, as soon as he sobered up, he would be a suicide risk.

On route to his cell he pleaded with the police not to leave him alone, unfortunately, they did and these were the last words anyone would hear from this tortured sole. Hours later, Valero was found hanged by his tracksuit pants. Although he maintained vital signs when released staff were unable to resuscitate him. His end was as chaotic as his start. All we can do now is wonder what could have been.

David Corner