The Shocking Death of Edwin Valero

April 21, 2010 in Boxing, Social/Political Commentary by pacejmiller

Talk about a shock.

A few days ago, I was stunned to read about the arrest of Venezuelan boxing superstar Edwin Valero for allegedly murdering his wife.  The 28-year-old southpaw isn’t widely known outside of boxing circles, but most who follow the sport know him as the guy with an unblemished 27-0 record, all victories coming by way of knockout.  More remarkably, Valero’s first 18 bouts all ended in the first round, a former world record and a feat that landed him regularly on those wacky Japanese TV shows.

Today, I find out that Valero has committed suicide, hanging himself in his cell with his track pants.  The man who grew from wretched poverty to national hero to drug abuser, wife beater and eventually wife murderer — the man many wanted to see face pound-for-pound champ Manny Pacquiao — ultimately died as a coward.

Opinion is quite divided on Valero and his passing.  Most agree that the boxing world has lost a tremendous talent, but it would be an understatement to say that some are glad this wife beater and supposed murderer (Valero apparently admitted to stabbing his 24-year-old wife Jennifer Carolina Viera) has met his end.

Personally, I wasn’t that high on Valero’s boxing ability.  He was promoted by Pacquiao’s company Top Rank, so of course people would talk about a potential bout between the two men.  In my opinion, it was just talk.  Having watched a few of Valero’s bouts, I wouldn’t have given him a little more than a puncher’s chance against Pacquiao.  Sure Valero had some heavy hands, but he simply wasn’t at Pacquiao’s level yet.  Most of the guys he had fought earlier in his career were bums, some of which had never won a professional bout.

In any case, Valero failed to get a license to fight on US soil because of a brain injury he suffered as a result of a severe motor cycle accident he was involved in (without a helmet) in 2001.  The state of Texas was willing to license him, but after being charged with drink driving there, Valero could not get a visa to enter the country.  Valero believed the refusal to allow him to fight in the US was political, as he was a huge supporter of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the face of whom he had tattooed across his chest.

Nevertheless, I think Valero’s life tells a very tragic story.  This was a guy who experienced appalling poverty (much like Pacquiao did) growing up, and somehow made a name and fortune for himself through his amazing talents and hard work in the boxing ring.  Inside the ring, Valero was a hero.  Outside of it, he was a mess.  And because no one wanted to believe that a sporting superstar could have serious issues, they pampered him and turned a blind eye to his problems.

Edwin Valero and his wife Jennifer in happier times

Valero was said to be battling serious alcohol and cocaine addiction, and suffered depression on top of it.  Before Valero’s wife was killed, she had allegedly told her family that he “didn’t sleep, he didn’t eat, he used drugs every day and he was growing more violent all the time.”

For a couple of years now, Valero had been linked to reports of domestic abuse — first against his mother and sister, then against his wife, who once reported to hospital with a punctured lung and broken ribs.  Valero was subsequently arrested by police after an argument with medical staff, where he allegedly tried to prevent his wife from speaking to authorities.  She later said that her injuries were sustained from an accidental fall.

In the end, Valero had no one to blame but himself.  But was society complicit in his demise?

“We all looked away, not to admit what was going on,” said Valero’s manager, Jose Castillo.  Authorities “were very permissive with him, and because of that, we’re now in the middle of this tragedy.”