For those who haven’t heard the news yet, lightweight Edwin Valero — as pure a puncher as there is in boxing, someone who as recently as this year was discussed as a potential future opponent for the world’s best fighter, Manny Pacquiao — was arrested this weekend for murdering his wife, a crime police say he confessed to committing.
There is the reaction to this news one has as a human being: If what the police say is true, you loathe the man for the killing and you’re saddened for the victim, Jennifer Carolina Viera, and her family. Even if Valero has his demons, and he most certainly does, it’s unforgivable.
As a boxing person, and as a person who values justice, it angers me, too. Valero had been accused of beating his sister and mother, and then his wife, the latter more than once. He’s had repeated brushes with the law otherwise, like his DUI in the United States and various similar alleged acts in his native Venezuela. Other than the U.S. brush with the law that made it hard for him to get a visa here, he had paid no price at all for any of this.
The media in Venezuela is shaky at best, and while there are reports of the government there helping Valero out of his troubles, what’s clear is that Valero has repeatedly been accused of dangerous behavior and has never been dissuaded from any of it. What little penalty he encountered — a court-ordered rehab session after he allegedly threatened doctors who were treating his wife for what Valero said was a tumble down the stairs — didn’t really stick. Weeks after getting his rehabilitation assignment, he was arrested and then released for leaving the scene of a traffic accident, allegedly under the influence of alcohol (per BoxingScene).
I hesitate to wonder why no one on Valero’s boxing team was able to stop some of this from happening. He was a potential cash cow, and I do question whether enough steps were taken to keep him out of trouble. His drunken acts of violence were no secret from the very beginning. But then, when someone’s bent on self-destruction, and the destruction of those around him in his personal life, these kinds of things still happen; friends and business partners can only go so far. Mainly, I question why the Venezuelan government allowed Valero — no doubt a national hero of sorts, and someone who has a tattoo of Hugo Chavez on his chest — to repeatedly get away with so much. It’s not surprising that a government like Venezuela’s would protect the national hero from suffering any ill because of his recklessness. But it’s counterproductive, to say the least. If Valero had spent any time in jail for any of his alleged wrongs, would he still have done this? We can never know, but the odds certainly are worse. Now, the chances of him ever becoming the boxer he can be are virtually nil.
This is all a shame for anyone who enjoys the sport. Valero was a force of nature along the order of Pacquiao and Yuriorkis Gamboa, possessing a rocket fuel concoction of speed and power that made him must-see TV, and he was maturing into a capable technician as well. Instead, barring a miraculous turnaround, he’s going to go down as the biggest waste of pugilistic talent due to criminal behavior since heavyweight Ike Ibeabuchi, who once entertained and hinted at greatness like Valero only to spend his prime years in jail.
To Jennifer Carolina Viera, rest in peace. To Valero’s promising boxing career, goodnight.
[UPDATE: And now, to Valero himself — goodnight. He has killed himself in jail, according to police. This has become one of the more shocking stories in boxing I can remember.]