The tragic tale of one of boxing's most-feared punchers Edwin Valero

The tragic tale of Edwin Valero: He was boxing’s most-feared power puncher, fuelled by childhood demons – and drink and drugs… but on one awful night 10 years ago, mental illness drove this Venezuelan folk hero to stab his wife to death then kill himself

  • Edwin Valero was a Venezuelan knockout artist set to be boxing’s next star
  • Valero was an undefeated two-weight world champion when he killed himself
  • He killed himself a day after being arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife
  • The Venezuelan boxer had a history of mental illness and drug addiction issues

One Sunday night in April 2010, Edwin Valero descended the stairs and walked across the hotel lobby where he was staying in Valencia, Carabobo and allegedly whispered into the ears of a security guard that he had just murdered his wife.

Moments later, Jennifer Valero was found by hotel staff lifeless, laying on the bed of their hotel room in a pool of blood with three stab wounds. She was 24.

The delirious lightweight champion, high on a cocktail of drink and drugs, was arrested on suspicion of killing his wife and led away to the four-cornered cell where he would kill himself a day later.

Valero was one of Venezuela’s most potent folk heroes and an undefeated two-weight champion who had won all 27 of his fights by knockout on the night his life came to an ignominious and tragic end. 

Edwin Valero was set to become boxing’s next star before he killed himself in a prison cell

This is the last picture of Valero, who hung himself a day after being arrested on suspicion of killing his wife

The fearsome puncher nicknamed ‘Dynamite’ was boxing’s next bankable phenomenon and a genuine knockout artist. He was an athlete of passion and raw talent who divided opinions.

He was a vocal supporter of Venezuela’s socialist president, Hugo Chavez, and had a gaudy tattoo of him on his torso, but was captivating and laying out everyone and everything put in front of him. 

There was an aura to him. He was boxing’s worst-kept secret, sure to make it to the big time, but he was a ticking timebomb.

How Valero’s story ended in the tragic circumstances it did is both complicated and blurry. Let’s start at the beginning.   

Valero was born in Bolero Alto, a tiny village in Merida, Venezuela on December 3, 1981.

His upbringing was against the backdrop of immense struggle and poverty.

Money was so scarce that Valero, his two parents and four siblings had to share just two bedrooms in the family home.

His father abandoned him when he was young after his parents split up and by the age of nine Valero was forced to drop out of school.

He would spend his days picking and selling fruit at a bus station in El Vigia and selling garlic door-to-door to housewives.

The Venezuelan was a destructive puncher and won all 27 of his pro fights by knockout

Some said that by the time he was a teenager, Valero was essentially homeless, starving and barely surviving on the dangerous streets of Venezuela.

He became involved in gang violence, crime and heavy drug use. 

His mother is said to have told reporters that the circle of friends he ran with ‘robbed and killed’ people and that he was the only one out of 30 to live to see his 20th birthday.

Valero described his childhood as ‘like being born in the Seventh Circle of Hell’ and said on several occasions during interviews that he was deprived of ‘a normal’ upbringing.

Speaking years later about his aggressive fighting style, where he would yell and hiss at his opponents as he threw punches, he said: ‘There is something inside me that I have to unleash on someone. Perhaps it’s anger, hatred I feel at having been denied a childhood.’ 

EDWIN VALERO’S CAREER IN THE  RING

Valero was a monstrous puncher who had an 100 per cent knockout record at the time of his death. 

He won the WBA super-featherweight world title in 2006 and defended it five times before stepping up in weight.

Valero defeated Antonio Pitalua to win the WBC lightweight world title and made two defences of the belt. 

The Venezuelan will be best remembered for his war with Antonio DeMarco where he overcame rocky moments and an horrific cut to his eye to stop his opponent.

Valero was mentioned as an honourable mention alongside Gennady Golovkin in The Ring’s top 100 punchers of all time. 

Valero was desperate to escape the streets and took a job at a local bicycle shop. This would prove to alter his life forever. 

The owner of the shop sent Edwin to a boxing gym where he would hone his skills and eventually become one on the finest fighters to emerge out of Venezuela.

The gym was his sanctuary and offered him a place to blow off steam and get his head down at night.

It was obvious very early that he had a natural gift for fighting. Valero was a highly successful amateur and had a record of 86-6 (45 KO’s) before turning over to the pro ranks.

His boxing career was threatened before it even got off the ground though. In 2001 he was involved in a motorcycle accident that caused a cerebral haemorrhage – and was charged with drink driving.

Eighteen months after he received the doctor’s approval to fight again, he made his debut by knocking out Eduardo Hernandez in the first round in Caracas.

No man would go beyond the first round with Valero for the next 18 fights as he established himself as the hardest-hitting little big man in the business.

Valero was cold-blooded and explosive in the ring but had two considerable hurdles in the way of him becoming a household name in the United States.

The DUI from 2001 made it challenging to gain a visa to enter the US and he had failed a brain scan for a fight in New York three years later due to the significant injury he sustained from the crash. 

Valero fought through a tough childhood to become a boxing world champion

In August 2006, Valero announced himself on the world stage by stopping Vicente Mosquera in Panama to claim the WBA super-featherweight belt.

He continued his dominance with four defences of his title against Michael Lozada, Nobuhito Honmo, Zaid Zavaleta and Takehiro Shimada before stepping up a division to lightweight.

Valero fought Colombia’s Antonio Pitalua for the vacant WBC title and demolished him in just two rounds to win a world title in a second weight division.

Twenty five fights, 25 wins all by knockout. This wild South American was ready to become boxing’s next superstar. 

He extended his perfect record to 27 wins with stoppage victories over Hector Velazquez and Antonio DeMarco – who would go down as the best name on his record.

Valero had to weather a storm and overcome a horrific cut to his eye to defeat the highly-rated DeMarco. 

The world was at his feet and a super-fight with Manny Pacquiao was in the works.  There had been a clamour to see these two patriotic, tough men go to war and Bob Arum’s eyes would light up at the mere mention of it.

There was money to be made, and plenty of it, but that day would never come as the  wheels of Valero’s life began to fall off.

He became a champion in two weight divisions and established himself as a feared puncher

Valero allegedly stabbed his wife Jennifer (pictured) to death while high on drink and drugs

Just months after his finest night, it would all be over. 

Valero had been fighting his inner demons for some time by 2010 and could no longer suppress them as things quickly spiralled out of control.

Valero became increasingly paranoid and began having suspicions that his wife was having an affair, while also fearing that the police, gangsters and even his own mother was conspiring against him.

In March 2010 – one month after beating DeMarco – he was arrested for harassing his wife and accused of assaulting her after she was rushed into hospital with a punctured lung and broken ribs.

He denied the allegations by saying she had fallen down the stairs. Doctors and nurses reportedly sent him for psychiatric care after an outburst at the hospital.

Valero was placed under a restraining order that barred him from going near his wife, a condition he repeatedly violated, and went into drug and alcohol rehabilitation. 

Just a month later Valero and his wife were both dead.

The day after Valero had allegedly murdered his wife, he hanged himself by his trousers in his police cell with a picture of his family stuffed in his mouth. 

There were huge fights for him in the pipeline before his life spiralled out of control 

He was said to have been diagnosed with schizophrenia in the months leading up to his wife’s death.

Those who had had dealings with him had noticed his behaviour had gotten strange and that things weren’t quite right. 

Legendary boxing promoter Arum said years later that Valero became ‘totally erratic’ and that ‘he didn’t seem normal’.

The Venezuelan boxer’s former promoter Akihiro Honda admitted that Valero had real ‘substance abuse problems’. 

Some reports said that Valero and his wife Jennifer, who was also a drug user, were travelling to Cuba to a rehab centre.

The uncle of his wife, Evelio Finol, blamed the government and also claimed that Jennifer had been forced to take drugs by Valero for years under the threat of death.

Valero will be best remembered in the ring for overcoming a bad cut to beat Antonio DeMarco

It was believed that his troubled childhood, substance abuse and his previous brain injury were the main factors towards his violent tendencies and increased paranoia.

In the hours before Jennifer’s death, Valero had even asked staff to check under the bed to make sure no one was hiding in his room. 

Despite his arrest on suspicion of murder, news of the troubled fighter’s death was greeted with great sorrow across Venezuela. 

Valero was seen as a Diego Maradona type figure of boxing and there was a real urge for him to fulfill his greatness.

The world was his oyster 10 years ago, but mental illness and drug abuse would bring a tragic, early end to more than just one life on that fateful Sunday night in Valencia.

Venezuelans were left devastated by the death of Valero, who had been the country’s folk hero




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