Born from the rough streets that lie in Valencia, Venezuela, Valero was seen as an outcast from other kids his age, where play fighting would turn into something much more serious. Eventually this temper was channelled into boxing at the age of 12.
He became an outstanding amateur knocking down people who had never tasted the canvas and with a final record of 86-6 with 57 KOs. A national amateur champion for three years running; his stamina, pure power and intensity made him a one of a kind fighter and a freak of nature if you will. Most boxing trainers from Venezuela were incredibly impressed by the young man’s talent and excited for what the future would hold for him.
Many said that he had a natural talent for fighting and what would be built up to create an iconic boxer. He stood at 5”6 and weighed 120 pounds, but with everything in his arsenal, it was hard to believe he wasn’t some kind of machine crafted to destroy. Mikey Garcia, the current WBC lightweight champion (to which Valero used to own) had sparred with him. He not only stated that he hit hard but that he used to knock out sparring partners all the time, he would go for the kill constantly. Like a man possessed, Valero portrayed that he wanted to hurt people. His unusual tactics would include ‘taking their weapons away’ meaning punching their arms continuously so that round after round; they wouldn’t be able to pick their hands up.
“That f***er was experienced”
On February 5th, 2001 Valero would be involved in a severe motorcycle accident without wearing a helmet. At age 19, he fractured his skull and had surgery to remove a blood clot all before making his pro debut. He wouldn’t turn pro until July 9th 2002; taking two minutes and constant power punches to make his opponent drop in a corner of the ring. He conquered all of his next 17 opponents inside a round, the sheer power, agility and ability to throw countless hard punches got him into the position of making a big name for himself. He became the best prospect to come out of Venezuela in 30 years and rightly so, he destroyed every fighter that got in the ring with him, a walking death machine.
In 2004, when Valero was 12-0, the idea of stardom was almost a reality when he was signed by Golden Boy Promotions. Sadly he received a suspension which stopped him from boxing in the States. The thought of never knowing if you could fight again would leave you mentally devastated (especially so early in his career) but not Valero. You wouldn’t expect someone suspended to be in the gym and training every day. He never stopped. He had everything it took to make him a superstar in the sport, he would not fight in USA but elsewhere until 2009.
2006 saw Valero fight for his first world title - the WBA Super Featherweight belt against Vincente Mosquera in Panama City. Before this fight was his first time going past a round, this time it would be his first going past two… The world title bout would start with Valero showing sheer aggression against his first opponent that wouldn’t just give up, knocking him down twice in the first round in the process. Mosquera showed grit and heart as he got back up and continued battling, but so did Valero after being knocked down in the third. Round after round, Valero would punish his opponent into the 10th when a stoppage would finally come.
“He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s explosive”
Valero gained the reputation of being one of the most dangerous men in boxing and it didn’t stop there. He would go on to make four defences of his super featherweight crown before moving up to challenge for the WBC lightweight title. Over this time, he carried on his 100% knockout ratio and gained attention from many notable boxing stars. Freddie Roach would invite Valero for a sparring session with the rising star Manny Pacquiao. No footage has been released of the sparring sessions, however when Valero sparred with Erik Morales in 2004, it was a different story. Valero opened up with incredible punches which broke Morales’s nose, the sharp snappy shots from the Venezuelan started to show his power and yet, still a prospect at this stage. One can only imagine what happened between Manny and Edwin’s sparring sessions, but most believe it was competitive and explosive.
“He loved being in the ring, that was the difference”
It was perhaps wanting to be there and his goal was always to knock out his opponents that was his greatest quality. No fighter really showed a drive like that, even in sparring - a learning process of the sport, Valero would hurt partners, tag them with shots so their legs become jelly. He would move up in weight for a better challenge. The fight against Antonio Pitalúa showed how much Valero was learning at this stage, able to pick apart world class opponents with ease. The fight would only last 3 minutes and 49 seconds and Edwin Valero would become a two-weight world champion. In those two rounds, punches would be thrown without anything coming back in high quantities, his opponent was outmatched and outclassed. Valero needed a tougher test.
February 6th, 2010 would be the last time Edwin Valero enters the squared ring against Antonio DeMarco. DeMarco would go on to secure the WBC Lightweight belt, but not against Valero. The 4” height advantage to DeMarco would help him only momentarily; keeping Valero at bay and under his control in the first two rounds. It was in that second round very clearly that DeMarco had unintentionally struck Valero with his elbow, but Valero with blood dripping down his head would not see it like that. Punishment would come from Valero for the next seven rounds, landing at will in combinations until DeMarco decided to stay sitting on his stool for the 10th round.
“He had the heart, he would fight anybody, any place”
Valero would go on to vacate the Lightweight crown on March 10th with his eyes set on the super lightweight division. A tragedy would lie in wait when Valero was arrested for killing his wife, her body found in a hotel room to which he would admit to. Just the next day, he would be found with his own clothes used to hang himself in his prison cell. A horrific end for a boxer that could have gone on to do so much more.
There were many mysteries revolving around the life and death of Edwin Valero. Before the death of his wife came, many allegations of assault were held against him. His wife bearing bruises and marks and six months of psychiatric rehabilitation would ultimately lead to both of their deaths. Because of his image in Venezuela, it was believed many would give him a get out of jail free card. It could have been this that drove prison officers to kill Edwin Valero rather than commit suicide. José Castillo who was Valero’s manager at the time of his death stated “he didn’t do it, they killed him”.
It was said that he got involved with a lot of drugs. The signs were shown by his friends that red eyes, not waking up early, becoming irritable and generally not getting on was very unusual for the athlete. It is one of those cases where living in the boundaries and laws that society sets becomes disinteresting. Edwin Valero’s demise became one among many tragic tales where a talent was wasted.
His status as a world champion, as a professional boxer should not have mattered for what he ever did outside the ring. His career would override his inexcusable actions because of the reputation he had set up, being friends with the president, an icon for his country.
Edwin Valero was a great boxer but even from his roots he was a violent person. His demons eventually caught up with him.