“El Dinamita”

By Ted Sares on October 7, 2011
“El Dinamita”
Someone once said “suicide becomes viable when all other options disappear” (Ecksel)

A ruthless closer once he had his opponent hurt, Edwin Valero would stalk, stun and close as if he were on the Serengeti…

“Never mind who in the sordid prizefight industry failed him or aided him by turns—manager, trainer, promoter, cut man, etc. How is it that we expect to see fighters face death during the day in the ring and then expect them to Tweet cheerfully at night?”—Carlos Acevedo

Now that some time has passed, it is important to look at the Edwin Valero story in the light of somber objectivity and not within the context of emotionally-charged rage. Clearly, this essay is not meant to romanticize Valero. It’s simply an attempt to make some sense out of what happened and to see if any lessons emerge.

The Early Years

Edwin’s parents separated early, and he reportedly was out of his house before he was a teen living on the streets or in the gym. On his own, he sometimes had to steal in order to eat. He had no other way to survive. This is no excuse for his later behavior, but it perhaps offers some explanation to his susceptibility to certain temptations.

Valero started boxing at the age of 12, compiling an unconfirmed amateur record of 86-6 with 57 knockouts. He was Venezuelan amateur champion three years running, as well as the Central and South American Champion. It was during his days as an amateur that he was involved in a motorcycle accident (in which he was not wearing a helmet). Reportedly, the accident caused a cerebral hemorrhage, though other reports say he had fractured his skull and had surgery to remove a blood clot. What is not in dispute is that a brain scan later detected irregularities, but he continued to fight and he continued to destroy his opposition.

Turning Professional

The Venezuelan southpaw turned professional in July 2002, but only fought four times in the United States. As a result, his fights were mainly held in Japan and Latin America, but the lure of big money was beginning to suggest he would be fighting in the U.S. sooner rather than later. While living, training, and fighting in Japan, there were rumors about his inability to control his temper, especially when he was drinking, but they were never really substantiated. Meanwhile, he continued to travel the world as a road warrior applying his craft and compiling an eye-popping winning streak of 18 first round knockouts.

During Edwin’s walk down the aisle, his eyes were wide open and focused intently on the ring as he rushed toward it with increasing haste ready to do battle. He was like an apparition—or maybe like a combustible stick of dynamite ready to explode .Valero had earned a fearsome reputation as a tremendous puncher with either hand coming into the ring to hunt down whoever was in front of him and take his head off.  A ruthless closer once he had his opponent hurt, he would stalk, stun and close as if he were on the Serengeti. His all-out action style, heavy hands, and incoming pressure and tenacity punctuated by a scream every time he threw a power punch earned him a reputation as an explosive crowd-pleaser.

Dinamita earned a high profile and powerful mystique in the boxing world, and was a national hero in his home country of Venezuela where he was known as “El Inca” or “Dinamita.” Like Mando Ramos and Arturo Gatti before him, and now the Canadian idol Lucien Bute, when Valero came down the aisle, spines tingled. He had an electric-like connection with his fans that only a few fighters ever achieve.

The first fighter to extend Valero to more than one round was Mexican welterweight Genaro Trazancos who for his trouble was quickly dispatched in the second with a vicious body punch in a fight in Japan in 2006. Then, in a fierce battle which tested his mettle and stamina, Valero beat Panamanian Vicente “El Loco” Mosquera that same year to win the World Boxing Association super featherweight crown in Panama City, Panama.

In March 2008, Valero was cleared to box in the state of Texas due to a technicality, but he was not scheduled to fight any time soon, as he was experiencing subsequent visa problems. Then, along with charges of domestic violence in Venezuela, Valero was charged with drunken driving in Texas, which was one of the primary reasons he was denied a visa. Valero’s response was to accuse the U.S. government of discrimination, saying he had completed all the necessary paperwork for the visa but his application wasn’t approved because of his sympathy for Hugo Chavez, a fierce critic of the U.S. government.

After four successful defenses, Valero, fighting for the first time in the United States since 2003, moved up to capture the vacant World Boxing Council title with a second-round blowout of Colombian bomber Antonio Pitalua (46-3) to win the vacant WBC lightweight title in the Frank Erwin Center on the University of Texas campus. Here is what I said about this fight in an EastSideBoxing article dated May 4, 2009:

“The first round was a tentative one in which both fighters felt each other out but one in which Valero finished strong by landing a sharp combination signaling what was to come. ‘Dinamita’ then quickly ended matters. He floored and badly hurt his imposing looking opponent, Antonio Pitalua, in an exchange and that, for all practical purposes, was the end. Pitalua got to his feet but was on ‘Queer Street’ and was swarmed upon by Valero who atypically threw straight and extremely fast combos until Pitalua hit the deck again. Once more, he got up but on rubbery legs as referee Laurence Cole kept a close eye on him. Valero then attacked again and seemed to land everything he threw and he threw plenty until Pitalua went down this time for good. And all of this happened in just 49 seconds.”

After forcing former world champion Hector Velazquez (51-13-2) to quit in his corner after a seven-round beating in a bout in Venezuela, “Dinamita” fought and stopped the interim WBC lightweight titleholder, tough Mexican Antonio DeMarco (21-1-1) in Monterrey, Mexico on February 2, 2010, despite fighting with a horrific cut over one of his eyes caused by an elbow. Valero administered another beat down. But this time American viewers got to see it because Showtime went to Monterrey, Mexico to televise the fight. The highly regarded DeMarco’s corner did not allow him to come out for the 10th round. DeMarco was no slouch, but Valero destroyed him notwithstanding the gory cut.

As for his next potential fights against then undefeated Devon Alexander or undefeated Timothy Bradley, he likely would have been too relentless and too heavy-handed for either one. Valero was now shortening up on his punches and doing a better job on defense, though his defensive shortcomings made him vulnerable and, by extension, even more exciting.  He also was beginning to get even more power out of his punches. His hand speed, already very fast, was beginning to get faster. He had become the complete killing machine and he often was doing his work in his opponents’ back yard.

Dinamita, the only fighter in the 30-year history of the WBC to win every fight in his career by knockout (27 in all), was also being talked of as a possible opponent for the Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao. That both he and Pacquiao were my favorite fighters would only add to this match-up’s intrigue. In this regards, I added the following in the aforementioned EastSideBoxing piece:

“Valero, showing a crispness and speed that perhaps can be attributed to his new trainer, the savvy Robert Alcazar… moves to center stage along with Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao. He is an exceptional puncher and a very exciting fighter with the demeanor of a champion and the charisma of a superstar. Indeed, the specter of an Edwin Valero vs. Manny Pacquiao fight takes on new meaning and if it is made, it could be one of the biggest fights in recent boxing history. Time will tell.”

Warnings

“There are telltale signs in the life of a fighter that should not go unnoticed.”—Diego Morilla

“All the money. All the promise. It’s all meaningless now. But back when Valero was alive and at his peak, it meant everything to him and his inner circle…something or someone should have helped him. It’s all hindsight now, of course, but regardless, we can only learn and hope that there are people in place that will prevent such a tragedy to occur again.”—Gina L. Caliboso

“There are too many innocent victims in this case to seriously consider him one…But there are others who played key roles in the degeneration of Valero from a hungry, young prizefighter into an uncontrollable monster. They are also guilty and have blood on their hands.”—Paul Magno

It was reported on Sept. 27, 2009, that Edwin Valero had been arrested on assault charges. A man alleged that the boxer attacked his (Valero’s) mother and sister over a feud. Valero denied the allegations and considered them an attempt to harm his reputation. His mother, Eloiza Vivas, came forward to support her son.

On March 25, 2010, Valero was again accused of assault, this time by his wife who was sent to hospital for bruises, a damaged lung, and broken ribs. Valero denied any wrongdoing, stating his wife stumbled from a stairway, but investigators doubted him. His wife later told authorities that her injuries were caused by an accident on some stairs, despite the fact that she had been treated for similar injuries twice before at the hospital. Because of the vicious and threatening personality he displayed at the hospital against doctors, nurses, and police officials, he was sent for six months of psychiatric rehabilitation. Valero was held for nine days in a psychiatric hospital in Merida, where he underwent police-supervised rehabilitation. His lawyer said people close to the Valero posted bail on April 7 and he was allowed to go free—almost six months early.

The Attorney General’s Office said a prosecutor had asked a court to order Valero jailed, but that the judge instead placed him under a restraining order that barred him from going near his wife, a condition he reportedly continued to violate.

When the news about a fighter’s personal and domestic problems begin to equal his ring exploits, that’s when things can go downhill rapidly. That’s when someone needs to step in. As Paul Magno states in a moving piece dated April 1, 2010 in INSIDE FIGHTS, “…that’s when things can take a turn for the worse, when the steering wheel starts to veer toward the curb and a crash is imminent.”

The warnings were manifest, but they were ignored. Where was his entourage when his addiction spun him out of control? Where was his family? Why wasn’t he kept in rehab long enough to rehab him? Where were the Venezuelan Authorities?

Jose Castillo, Edwin’s manager, sums it up differently when he says, “To really know Edwin, I think that you really have to know him from beginning to end. It’s like if you’re watching a movie from the middle to the end. You really can’t understand why the ending came out that way without watching the beginning, and most people don’t know what the beginning of Edwin Valero was.”

The End

“It’s a tragedy, a tragic, tragic waste…”—Promoter Bob Arum

The boxing world was hit by four tragedies in 2009. Within a short period of time (and particularly during the month of July), the successive deaths of three former world champions, Alexis Arguello, Vernon Forrest and Arturo Gatti rocked the sports world and shell-shocked boxing fans around the globe. Arguello and Gatti had committed suicide (though some still dispute that) while the greatly admired Vernon Forrest was shot several times in the back and pronounced dead at the scene in Atlanta following a robbery. Then, Darren “Daz” Sutherland also committed suicide by hanging himself on Sept. 14, 2009. The likable Daz had an Olympic bronze medal and was looking forward to a promising pro career in the U.K.

But in April 2010, more shock waves hit the already reeling boxing world—this time by a series of cascading and fast moving events. First, there were reports of domestic violence between Edwin Valero and his wife, but by now most boxing fans had become inured to that news.  Shorty thereafter, however, news of her murder by stabbing came out and the mind numbing shock set in. By the time Valero was arrested, it seemed the end of the line had finally come, but this incredible tragedy still had legs. It finally ended when Valero hanged himself with his sweatpants in the early morning hours in a holding cell in Venezuela. When he was found by another inmate, he was still showing signs of life. He was taken down but died at about 1:30 a.m., as authorities were unable to save him. The headlines screamed, “Edwin Valero kills himself after arrest for wife’s murder, say police.” By then, I was virtually immune from any further shock. What more could happen?

According to reports, he left the InterContinental hotel in the city of Valencia around daybreak and told security staff there he had murdered his wife Jennifer Carolina Viera de Valero in an alcohol and cocaine frenzy. Carolina’s age has been reported as 20 or 24, depending on the source. “I [laid] next to her and when I woke up she was dead,” said Edwin. He was then taken into custody and put on suicide watch, but later hanged himself.

Diego Morilla nails it in his outstanding article titled “Boxing must learn from Valero case” dated April 22, 2010 in ESPN Boxing when he concludes, “Valero’s name—forever stained—will always bear a question mark next to it. And as long as we refuse to acknowledge it and fail to make the effort to find answers and solutions, the possibility of a new and similar tragedy will continue to cast its shadow upon the world of boxing.”

Could anything have been done to prevent the tragedy? Yes, of course, if the warnings had been heeded. Perhaps the brain injury, his notable and documented anger issues, and a severe substance abuse problem coalesced to contribute to Valero’s tragic end. But whatever the cause, he and his wife, Jennifer Carolina Viera, are gone now and we can only pray for them and for those left behind, including their children, eight-year-old Edwin Junior and Rosalina who is five. The collateral damage caused by this tragedy will continue to be devastating.

Someone once said “suicide becomes viable when all other options disappear,” but however one defines or rationalizes suicide, nobody impacted here will ever get over it.

“Like a bird singing in the rain,
Let grateful memories survive in time of sorrow.”

                                —Robert Louis Stevenson

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. MRBILL-HARDCORE XXX 01:52pm, 10/14/2012

    HBO has slipped…... Who hasn’t???

  2. MRBILL-HARDCORE XX 01:51pm, 10/14/2012

    Rios KOs Alvarado in a thriller while Donaire systematically stops his Japanese challenger in 9 rds….. Overall, a so-so HBO card…... Not great…...

  3. PitBull Petrill 09:58am, 10/14/2012

    Wow! What detailed piece chronicling the life of one of my favorite fighters; a fighter that had limitless potential. His early departure from this world makes me think of the great Salvador Sanchez’s untimely death at the young age of 22.

  4. The Thresher 10:44am, 10/12/2011

    “Old Yank” Schneider, Valero never flamed out. Had he not gone bonkers outside the ring, he was just positioning himself for big mega fights. This guy was a Latino superstar who also had a BIG following in Japan. If anything, the flamed burned more brightly in his last fight against DeMarco.

    No one knows exactly when the substance abuse stared but I believe it was in Japan where his anger issues also came to the surface. Now you put these with a serious brain injury, and you are going to get a very bad result.

  5. The Thresher 07:05am, 10/12/2011

    Thanks Mike.

  6. Mike Schmidt 04:55pm, 10/11/2011

    Another great article Ted. I recall years back getting a call from a good friend and great boxing guy, Doctor “Joe” telling me there were “urban” stories of this kids sparring sessions out on the west coast and that we would be seeing this kid hit the bigtime, he would have been around 18 at the time. Certainly when you see his sparring sessions with Morales you see a very very gifted boxer, and not just a ko specialist. Inside the ring, Pac Man, Marquez, Rios, Khan- what great fights and fights I suspect even odds he comes out winning. Outside the ring…. a young man that obviously slips thru the cracks or refused to obtain the help he needed. Either way, sad story for all those around him. Great article again.

  7. The Thresher 03:51pm, 10/10/2011

    Agreed on what?

  8. "Old Yank" Schneider 01:27pm, 10/10/2011

    The Thresher—Agreed, Valero had been around for a while.  But so is the matter that causes a shooting star.  Like a shooting star, when he flared up he shone brightly for a brief period and then flamed out.

  9. The Thresher 12:09pm, 10/10/2011

    Yes and no, Bill, but a great question. My issue was not to focus on the what as much as it was to focus on the why.

    As for forgiveness, yes there was some because I am a Christian and I try to practice what that faith teaches. Sometimes it is very hard to do, but you just deal with it.

  10. dollar bond 11:47am, 10/10/2011

    Do I read forgiveness in your article, Ted?

  11. The Thresher 08:31am, 10/10/2011

    Like I said, Valero has been around a long time.

  12. "Old Yank" Schneider 06:50am, 10/10/2011

    MRBILL—I agree with you.  By definition a shooting star burns brightly and then extinguishes.  Years ago I argued that Valero should not be licensed in the USA.  He ended up obtaining a license via a technicality.  NY had refused him a license; listing him as “suspended” for medical reasons.  Based on this refusal, reciprocation between USA Commissions resulted in Valero not being able to get licensed anywhere else in the USA (until or unless NY lifted their suspension).  Bob Arum (see the Margarito licensing fiasco), threatened a suit against the NY Commission.  His grounds were that NY had never technically issued a license and therefore had no legal standing in deeming Valero to be in the same class as a fighter with a SUSPENDED or REVOKED license – they had no license to suspend or revoke because none was granted in the first place.  Under the threat of Arum’s suit, NY relented and the “suspension” (that technically did not exist) was removed.  This paved the way for Valero to be seen by other commissions as simply an unlicensed fighter rather than a suspended fighter.  Arum found a state (TEXAS – surprise, surprise!) willing to ignore Valero’s medical records and the rest is history.

  13. The Thresher 03:54pm, 10/09/2011

    Rax, I agree. Pac would never have fought him.

  14. raxman 03:09pm, 10/09/2011

    For all the sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’

    You’re right Ted re that comment about him being around longer than what people thought - i was sitting back following this guy waiting for him to hit the big time - when they started talking vs pac i was counting the money i was going to take off the bookies coz they would never, at least here in oz, have realised how whole a fighter this kid had become. and i’ll go out on a limb and say there is no way in hell roach and co would taken the risk

    its a sad story but sadder still is how common it is out in the regular world - murder suicides and kids left behind

  15. pugknows 09:48am, 10/09/2011

    Just how good did you think he was?

  16. The Thresher 11:35am, 10/08/2011

    Tex, the interesting thing about Edwin was that he never entered a ring in bad shape. His training regiimes were legenday in So. Cali when he used to work out with Ponce de Leon and Linares.

  17. pugknows 10:13am, 10/08/2011

    Another moving piece. I love your stuff. Love it!!

  18. TEX HASSLER 09:34am, 10/08/2011

    There is no telling how great Valero would have become if he was a clean living fighter but now we can only guess. It is a shame he could not have been helped early on but he probably would not have cooperated. He will be remembered as a great fighter. This was an excellent well written article. Thank you Mr. Sares from the Lone Star State.

  19. The Thresher 06:51am, 10/08/2011

    Thanks Beach and Harry. This kind of piece is not for everyone because they like to demonize Valero instead of looking into what caused him to act as he did.

  20. The Thresher 06:48am, 10/08/2011

    MRBILL, He was more than a shooting star because he had been around a lot longer than most thoght. He was getting better with each performance while at the same time, hhis issues were getting worse. That was an anamaly.

    But one thing was certain. He was a real beast in the ring. Very focused and very heavy handed.

  21. Iron Beach 04:10am, 10/08/2011

    Good job Ted, I had began to view Valero as a Duran clone with his in the ring savagery, destruction, and disdain for his opponent’s efforts…indeed a killing machine as you suggested. The tragedy is that he could not limit it to the ring only. Two children left without either mother or father.

  22. Harry Shaffer 02:26am, 10/08/2011

    Dear Friend Ted,

    Wonderfully written tragedy of a man too fearless to lose, too reckless to live…

    Well done El Toro

    Best wishes,

    Harry

  23. MRBILL-HARDCORE XXX 08:12pm, 10/07/2011

    I never paid Valero any attention…. He was a shooting star… Here today; gone tomorrow…. Obviously he was a mental case somewhat like another latino talent such as, Freddie Prinze…. Valero had the fortune and fame at a youthful age, but he couldn’t handle the peer pressure of dealing with it all….. WORD!

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