Learning of Edwin Valero’s suicide Monday morning was like waking up to a nightmare, as was the news of his murdering his wife on Sunday.
To say I wasn’t ready for it would be a gross understatement. Valero’s murder and suicide occurred while I was in Dayton, Ohio, attending my sister-in-law’s memorial service.
My wife’s sister was a good and giving human being, a deeply religious woman who never harmed a soul. She died of cancer at age 36. This weekend, with family and her closest friends, I mourned her death and celebrated her life.
I can’t do that with Valero. Not after what he did.
And yet, I can’t stop shaking my head.
Contrary to popular belief, I was not close to Valero. I didn’t know him well outside of his exploits in the ring and the gym. We did not speak often.
So, his death did not quite hit me in the heart because I had no real emotional connection with the young man.
And yet, I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t feel a sense of loss.
Call it a sentimental attachment. Valero was not my friend or my hero, but he was my fighter. I sensed something special in him the moment I first saw him train and I never once doubted his ability to rise to the top of the sport.
Chronicling his career was like following a real-life soap opera.
I watched a mysterious, young KO artist from Venezuela quickly develop into a Southern California gym legend in 2003. I was with his team in New York City when he failed his MRI exam and had his boxing license suspended. I defended the wayward prospect when he continued his career and first-round KO streak in other countries but had apparently lost his technique, as evidenced by the grainy videos that popped up on YouTube.com throughout 2005. I cheered for him when he won his first world title in a brutal dogfight with Vicente Mosquera in August of 2006. I traveled to Tokyo to witness his first title defense in January of 2007. I wrote the press release announcing that Valero’s boxing license had been reinstated in Texas for his then-promoter Teiken in 2008. I worked the small pay-per-view broadcast of Valero’s lightweight title victory over Antonio Pitalua in Austin, Texas in April of 2009, and even conducted an in-the-ring post-fight interview with him. I took pleasure in watching him prove his critics wrong by not only out-punching Antonio DeMarco but by out-boxing the worthy title challenger in defense of his lightweight belt in February.
I thought that victory would be the start of a new chapter in Valero’s life, the part of his story where he proved to the boxing world that he was the exciting, elite fighter I always believed him to be.
Instead, it was the beginning of the end. And what a sad, ugly downward spiral it turned out to be.
I still can’t stop shaking my head when I stop to think about it.
I’m not the only person bewildered, angered and depressed by Valero’s actions. As can be expected, my inbox has been full of Valero reactions since Sunday morning. Here are some of the emails:
AT A LOSS FOR WORDS
Heartbroken might be too strong of a word for Valero’s demise, but I’m also at a loss for words and I’m just plain bummed out about everything that’s happened this past weekend. I hope the funk I’m in doesn’t last too long, but it probably will.
If I learn of any fund raisers for Valero’s orphaned kids I’ll be sure to pass that information on to U.S. fans. Thinking of them, and his poor wife, is heartbreaking.
SAD, SAD WEEKEND
None of my family or friends know who he is, so who else am I going to commiserate with on this Valero issue. He's murdered his lovely wife and killed himself. We all knew he had demons, but I guess no one realized how consumed by them he was. I want to offer my condolences to you — not because he was your “son” or any of that, but for the mere fact that you were as close to him as any other boxing personality out there — and the boxing community as a whole. It's a crazy turn of events but one that wasn't all together a complete surprise. — Bim
It’s weird. It’s not a “complete surprise” and yet I was shocked to learn about the murder and the suicide.
I wasn’t that close to Valero (in terms of friendship) but I followed most of his pro career, I actually saw him fight live four times (which is more than most U.S. boxing writers), and, hell, I really liked watching the guy do his thing in the ring. So there was an attachment, and with his death, there is loss.
SADNESS AND SICKNESS
He was definitely a sick man. He needed help and didn’t seek it or ask for it until it was too late.
I knew he had issues (with drinking and with authority) and I knew he was a control freak (with his career and family) but I had no idea his problems were that extreme. I thought a big part of his out-of-the-sport troubles was his celebrity in Venezuela. I don’t think he handled fame well and I believe there were a lot of bad influences and dangers for him in his home town and country. However, what he did was so sick, I’m not sure if changing his location would have helped that much. He might have done the same thing in Cuba, Japan, Mexico or the U.S.
TAKE CARE, BUDDY
Larry’s not that old. LOL. But thanks for the kind words and the prayers, Todd. God willing I’ll have another decade or two doing what I’m doing now. I really do love it, but not when the subjects of my writing go astray as Valero did. Right now, this all sucks. Believe me when I tell you I DID NOT want to write this mini-column or compile this mailbag on Valero‘s death. I don’t want to think about this s__t right now. I’m dog tired from flying across the country and back with my two girls and I’m still mourning the loss of my sister-in-law. But this is my job and there should be some fan reaction of this shocking story. So here it is, along with my take, because you’re absolutely right, I did have hopes for Valero. High hopes indeed.
SADLY, YOU CALLED IT
“He’s going to have to live with the atrocity he committed for the rest of his life, and quite frankly, I don’t see how anyone can do that without going completely crazy.”
The increasingly bizarre news surrounding his life hit like the power of his punches and ended just like his 27 professional fights, never going to the judges. — Ken
Well stated, Ken.
Valero’s “killer instinct” was not limited to the ring and it eventually consumed him.
IT DIDN'T NEED TO END LIKE THIS
What a terrible shame. Had he gotten into therapy none of this needed to happen. Worse than him have turned their lives around. — Stephen, Montreal
I’d like to think you’re right, Stephen, but we don’t know how messed up he really was. I think some people are beyond help, for whatever reason. Valero may have been one of them.
Man, this Valero guy was really a piece of work… — JB
CONDOLENCES AND SUGGESTIONS
My comment today does not deal with Valero himself so much as it does with the way boxing is sometimes run. I dislike the fact that, to my knowledge, there is so little care taken of vulnerable fighters. Boxers like Tyson and Valero are (were, in Valero's case) already somewhat compromised, mentally, due to their background. By glorifying them and praising their “badness” in the ring, we run the risk of blurring the line that distinguishes in-sport aggression (which is okay in boxing) and out-of-the-ring violence (which is never okay).
I always try to empathize with fighters by thinking back to my days as an amateur. The act of boxing is one that involves a necessary psychological strain. I realized this fairly quickly after I started, and made sure to see a counselor every month or two for the duration of my tenure in the ring, even though I was not suffering from any kind of mental problems.
Fast-forward two years, and things began to change for me. I became depressed and angry. I sat down with everyone close to me, and, collectively, we decided that I shouldn't box anymore. Tyson and Valero never had that luxury; they had no alternatives in life. Nevertheless, a premature end to their careers, or an extended break, is less of a shame (on a universal level) than the idea that their respective crimes could have been averted.
Pro fighters (especially good ones) are surrounded by a HUGE system of faux-support and “yes-men.” The necessary counter-weight is a revamped test for psychological issues. Let’s say that any world champ / top-10-ranked-contender has to have an evaluation done every x weeks, regardless of whether he’s fighting or not. If a psychiatrist deems them to be a danger to themselves or anyone else, they lose the right to box and, under the threat of suspension by the alphabet-organizations, undergo intensive counseling. No more “miss-the-plane-to-Cuba” BS if Valero knew he was gonna be out of action for a couple of years, right?
I don't know if this would stop EVERY tragedy. But it would sure-as-hell be a good safeguard. The fans are powerless to institute practices in the sport of boxing. But our favorite writers are our representatives. Perhaps THE RING ought to do a piece on how to avoid this next time.
Thank you for your time! — George Miu
You pose some very interesting challenges for the boxing industry, George. There’s plenty of research connecting head injuries with chronic depression and rash actions, which supports your concerns about boxers, however, who should be responsible for instituting such treatment is up for debate. Ultimately, the decision to seek counseling/ psychological/psychiatric help — or to remove oneself from a dangerous profession, as you did — has to come from the fighter.
Let’s say the sanctioning organizations and/or the state commissions did institute some kind of periodic psychiatric evaluations of titleholders and top-10 contenders and prevented those who “failed” those exams/screening from fighting. What’s to keep the fighters from seeking a second (or third or fourth) opinion from other psychologists/psychiatrists that counters the initial evaluation? What’s to keep the boxers or their managers from fighting the decisions of the boxing authorities and sanctioning organizations in court? Who says that most won’t try to sue the psychologists/psychiatrists for trying to prevent them from making a living?
Valero’s failed MRI exam didn’t stop him from undergoing neurological tests from other specialists and continuing his boxing career elsewhere, did it? And by the way, Valero did undergo a fair amount of psychological testing after the failed MRI exam in NYC, and he was deemed “normal” by more than one specialist. Of course, that was in 2004. A lot could have changed in his life and in his head over the next six years.
I’d also like to point out that Tyson had to undergo a lot of court-ordered counseling prior-to and after his rape conviction and prison term. He chose not to continue that self-help (although he voluntarily embraced it after he retired). You could say that the yes-men and parasites in his life during his fighting days wanted to steer him away from such help, but ultimately, it was his choice to surround himself with those s__theads.
Anyway, we can on and on about this subject. I’m not disagreeing with your concerns I’m just debating about how feasible your solution is and who should be held accountable for fighters’ mental health.
I agree that this issue is worth exploring in an article.
VALERO & BOXING
I don’t think it will. I hope it doesn’t.
Potential: “Current, unfulfilled capacity to improve, develop, and achieve impressive feats”
Waste: “spend thoughtlessly; throw away”
– Cole, Charlotte, NC
What a waste it is.
THE END OF A TROUBLED SOUL
Valero was clearly a sick person, out of control and bound for hell! Sorry for her family, his family, supporters, friends, and fans. Everyone loses in this tragic conclusion.
You and others tried to support the guy's career, which was apparently the least of his problems. What a waste. — Joe Healy
NO MORE TALK OF “YOUR SON”
Good morning, Dougie (or as good as it can get). Hey, man. I'm sure you've had your fill of the Valero news, especially with a recent loss in your family (read about it in the mailbag and I'm really sorry about your loss, man). I'm hoping for two things (and I hope it's not crass of me to say this):
Thanks for reading, brother. Keep your head up. — Coyote Duran
Like his potential in the ring, we’ll never know if getting professional help would have kept him from killing his wife and himself. I’d like to think that it would have, but…
The memorial ten count is usually reserved for people who were directly involved in the boxing industry. I don’t think Valero’s wife qualifies, although I know that many fans and boxing insiders mourn her tragic demise.
Fans won’t be referring to Valero as “my son” for much longer because they won’t be referring to Valero any more. He’s dead. It’s over.
And FYI, the nickname wasn’t a resemblance thing. While Valero was out of the ring in 2004 and during his return in 2005 I received a lot of emails from fans who thought he was merely hype. Most of them stated things like “Your boy can’t fight” or “Your boy’s gonna be exposed”. I finally said in a mailbag that I don’t recall adopting Valero but I’ll go ahead and claim him. That’s how that started, but it‘s done with now.
MOVING ON FROM VALERO
Your response to the issue was great. You acknowledged the tragedy while not letting it cast a pall over the great weekend of boxing that we had or the sport in general. Your mention of Ismayl Sillakh, Eloy Perez and Jesse Vargas (amongst other prospects) was a great way of transitioning from the macabre subject of Valero to the still-bright and exciting future of our sport. I hope to see more on all of the prospects you mentioned in the last bag. It would be a great way to put some of this ugliness out of mind and focus on the boxers who are still out there doing good things both inside and outside the ring.
Thanks again for your great work and for staying focused on the positive during a rough patch… it's not always easy to do that in our sport or in life. — Tay, NYC
Thanks for the encouraging words, Tay. I promise I will continue to follow the young prospects I mentioned (and many others) and you can expect full articles on each as this year continues.
A TRAGIC END
You said it in your mailbag and it was right then before Valero killed himself and its still right now, the focus should be on his wife and his two children, who are now suddenley orphans. Jumping to killing your wife from domrestic violence is a huge leap, but i'm not sure how suprised we should all be that this happened. His life appeared to be spiraling dangerously out of control and most people i have saw seemed to make the same comment “Well, that's just Valero being Valero.”
How good could Valero have been? Sadly we'll never know. He's probably going to be thought of much like Tony Ayala, Jr, another troubled soul who couldn't stay out of his own way. Like Ayalya, Valero never got his big fight to prove he belonged among the elite. I still read quotes today from Ayala's handlers who agree undisputedly that he would have torn thru everyone between 147-154 lbs and established himself as boxing's biggest star. There's alot of fans/writers out there now who believe Valero would have done the same to Maywether, Bradley, Pacquuiao and whoever else you want to throw in the mix. I never bought into that theory, but we'll never know.
(P.S. – And this isn't meant to be a cheap shot, but between Margarito and the tragic demise of “Your Son” Edwin Valero, your guys haven't been exactly doing you proud.) — Tom.G
Well Tom, those two aren’t my only “guys”, as you should know. And so far, Margarito hasn’t killed anyone and is still alive, so he may yet redeem himself. Ya never know.
The Valero-Ayala comparison is an apt one, but I don’t think what Valero did should be blamed at all on the “people around him”. Only Valero can be held accountable for his actions.
You never bought into the “hype”, huh? Two world titles, 27 consecutive knockouts and victories over tough legit contenders like Mosquera, Pitalua and DeMarco ain’t hype. Valero’s talent and underrated skill was very real.
I wouldn’t have picked against him versus any active 135- or 140-pound fighter in the world.
DON'T STOP ENDORSING UNKNOWN TALENT
I just read that Valero has taken his own life there is nothing good to say about this situation, only that my prayers and my family's go out to the two families involved.
I admire how you backed Valero through his career when most ignored him. As a raw talent you recognized his limitless possibilities. Your view on the V-Nom was comparable to that of a person who defended a childhood hero and that was refreshing to read in your articles. Anyone who read about Valero read about a mythological titan or superhero when reading something you wrote about him. Your passion jumped out at the reader. I understand you have no control over his personal life but you admired his work in the squared circle as did I and in an ironic maybe even sick way he will be missed.
I hope the tragic story of Edwin Valero won't discourage from endorsing a fighter with the passion and excitement you covered him with. That excitement and optimism is what makes you a great boxing scribe! You make the fighters feel like they’re larger than life as all gladiators and fighters should be, not the fighters who have to have seven body guards but the fighters who think and believe they are as tough as the next man like Edwin Valero did. I'm not going to say I hope he rots in hell, but rather that he finds peace. May also his wife rest in peace. My heart goes out to his two children. I will pray for them to find peace as well. Thanks again Doug, see you in Vegas. — Sam Garcia
Thanks for your kind and encouraging words, Sam.
Don’t worry. If I see talent that excites me as much (or even half as much) as Valero initially did, I will tell the world. I view that as part of my job. Your fighter and friend, Eloy Perez, is one of those up-and-comers. Despite the sadness of this past weekend I can’t wait to get to Las Vegas to cover the fights on April 30 and the big event on May 1. Most of all, I look forward to being around real fight fans like you.