Internet myth, knockout artist, lightweight champ, southpaw, rising star, husband, father, abusive husband, confessed murderer, and now suicide statistic, mercurial, natural-born fighter Edwin “El Inca” or Dinamita” Valero, 27-0 (27), came and went through the lives of friends, family, and boxing fans like a violent, charismatic shooting star. Valero burned brightly as he passed by and, for a brief moment in time, his potential brilliance shined upon us. But, as is always the case in life, there are two sides to every story.
Over the past year, the life of the troubled prizefighter, seemingly with bricks in his hands and a will of steel, began to unravel. Years of drug and alcohol abuse alleged by the family of his now-deceased 24-year-old wife of ten years, Jennifer Viera, had taken their toll on the troubled soul and a hidden life of spousal abuse, intimidation, hard-partying and superstar diva antics began to surface. It was a life that eventually overtook them and ended this past weekend when Valero, checked in with his wife to the Hotel Intercontinental in Valencia, Venezuela. It was there in the early morning hours of April 17, that Valero came downstairs to the lobby and (according to eyewitness accounts) quietly told hotel security that he had murdered his wife. Authorities arrived on the scene within the hour, found the body of Viera stabbed to death in their hotel room and took Valero into custody.
Valero’s rapidly falling star would finish crumbling to the earth in the early morning hours of April 19, 2010, when he was found by an inmate hanging from a noose made from his sweatpants, barely alive. An attempt to stabilize him by the guards failed and Valero died shortly thereafter. He was 29.
An investigation has been launched by Venezuelan authorities into both the murder of Viera and the suicide death of Valero. The two tragically leave behind many questions, few answers, and two children, an eight-year-old son and five-year-old daughter now in the custody of Viera’s mother.
Edwin Valero was first seen by Maywood, CA. trainer Joe Hernandez in an international amateur tournament in Venezuela. Hernandez had brought his young charge at the time, Francisco “Panchito” Bojado to the tourney and it was there when he first encountered the doomed phenom.
“I met Edwin just before the  Olympics,” Hernandez told Maxboxing.com on Monday. “I met him in Venezuela in an amateur tournament. He was representing Venezuela and we were representing Panchito Bojado. And it just so happened that the two finalists were Panchito Bojado and Edwin Valero. And Valero won the fight.”
Soon after returning home to Los Angeles and his Maywood Boxing Gym, Hernandez received a call from a Valero representative who asked him to help with getting Valero fights in the U.S. Hernandez agreed and brought the young fighter to the States. From the first moment Valero came in the gym, Hernandez along with fellow trainers Ray Alcorta and Rudy Hernandez could see right away Valero was something unique.
A southpaw standing at 5’6”, Valero had the kind of build that could have grown from his 130-pound weight class to as high as possibly 140 to 147 pounds while maintaining his crippling power and fast hands.
“From the beginning, I noticed that we had a monster on our hands,” said Hernandez. “A monster referring to a boxing career. I thought he was unique and had a lot of potential. He was raw at the time. He was still on the mature level, but I think he had seven or eight fights as a pro and all by [first round] knockout.”
But even back then, Hernandez knew that his hyperactive and charismatic young charge had a dangerous and darker side just waiting to get out.
“And also a monster referring to not only the kid’s potential but the kid’s attitude,” continued Hernandez. “He wasn’t a sweet kid. He was just a guy who knew exactly what he wanted in life. But we felt that when he became champion, he would be a guy without too much discipline. He wasn’t brought up that way. He didn’t have a good childhood. He was street kid in Venezuela and that’s what I saw in the kid when he came to L.A.”
“When I first met him, he really had a lot of character,” former friend and co-trainer Ray Alcorta told Maxboxing.com on Monday as well. “He had a personality from the get-go. Before we saw him workout, we thought he was something special.”
From the get-go, Valero showed he was a cut above everyone who dared get in the ring. His gym wars became the stuff of legend and, soon, with the help of former Maxboxing.com Editor-in-Chief Doug Fischer on these very pages, Valero would begin to get recognized as a future star in the making.
“I think the best place for him was in Southern California [during that beginning stage],” Fischer told Maxboxing.com. “That was when he was happiest.”
“I remember when we first saw him workout and nobody could last more than two rounds with him,” said Alcorta. “I never saw him lose a round in sparring. I remember when we first brought him here. He was still a four-to-six-round fighter. We brought in Juan Lazcano, who was training for a big fight, and he sparred with Valero and he never came back. Valero, man. He would spar with anybody. Joe would pay people to come down and spar with him at the gym- and remember, this is a four-to-six-round fighter- we’re paying for sparring partners and we still couldn’t get sparring partners.”
Valero was born in Bolero Alto but raised in El Vigia in Merida, Venezuela. He was poor street kid who got in trouble with the law at an early age. Perhaps it was there that his wild, live-for-today streak was first formed. In any case, Hernandez and Valero believed that it was boxing that kept him alive and out of jail for as long as it did.
“I think boxing straightened his life out,” said Hernandez. “That’s what he would tell me. Without boxing, he would probably be in prison or he would not be in this world. He always said that. He thanked boxing for that. He was a wild kid. He had a lot of respect for [me]. A lot of respect. I was grateful for that and that we were able to discipline him for the time that he was with us in L.A. I think he was a kid that was wild in Venezuela. I think he had a lot of contact with the law. I think he had a lot of problems as a youngster. I think his life was a street type of life. There were many times he would tell me ‘I was in a motorcycle gang. And what we did was [robbing and strong arming].’”
Valero grew and grew as a fighter, running his string of first-round knockouts up into record-breaking territory. By now, his reputation as a tough gym fighter and a force to be reckoned with had spread across Southern California.
“[Valero ‘s] work ethic was incredible,” said Alcorta. “The way he would hit the heavy bag, he would punch the bag nonstop. The whole round without stopping; moving his feet around, but with continuous punches. He wouldn’t stop. And in Joe Hernandez’ gym, those rounds were four-and-a-half minutes long. [Valero] wouldn’t stop. Jesus Soto-Karass worked out with us at the gym. He was a 147-pounder and he didn’t want to spar with us no more.”
It was a fruitful time of learning and competing with fighters on a level he had never known. And as he showed later in his career, Valero could rise to any challenge.
“There was a funny story,” explained Alcorta. “We went to go spar Mike Anchondo, because he was getting ready for a big fight. They wanted to spar six-to-eight rounds. The third round, I looked at Joe Hernandez and Clemente Medina, who we were working with at the time, and said ‘[Anchondo] ain’t going to make it. There’s no way.’ And sure enough, the fourth round, that was it. They couldn’t go no more. And Mike Anchondo, I’ll always remember, he walked up to our corner and said ‘Goddamn. What do you feed this guy? Nails?’ Mike Anchondo, remember, was getting ready for a big fight. He was already in fighting shape. With Valero, three or four rounds, he couldn’t do no more. That was it.
“Everybody that would get in the ring with the guy,” Alcorta continued, “nobody looked forward to it, let’s put it that way.”
By January 2004, Valero had run his record to 12-0 with 12 KOs, all coming in the first round. He was all set to make his HBO “Boxing After Dark” debut in New York. The stage was set for Valero to arrive on an international stage.
“I was head trainer, supervisor; I was his agent,” explained Hernandez. “We got Joel De La Hoya to be his manager. He lived with me 24 hours-a-day. We had him, [Daniel] Ponce [De Leon], and Anchondo. Three prospects that were undefeated at the time. All in one room. All in the same apartment. We lived together. We trained together. And we took them to title shots, all three of them at the same time.”
But a roadblock appeared when Valero revealed to doctors during a routine medical checkup, that a spot no bigger than a pimple had shown up on his brain in an MRI may have been caused by a February 2001 motorcycle accident where Valero was not wearing a helmet. This was a full year before he had even turned pro and Valero had never considered an issue. Despite that, the New York State Athletic Commission put him on medical suspension and his license was revoked. It has been speculated that this brain injury was the cause of Valero’s recent madness. Hernandez disagrees.
“I think many people can come to that assumption, but that is incorrect,” said Hernandez. “He did have an accident and it was brought up in the exam he had in New York. But we took him to experts. I did that myself. I was with him at all times. We took him to the best experts at Cedar Hospital in California. And they all said the same thing: there was no reason for him not to fight.”
After 18 months out of the ring and MRIs and test upon test, Golden Boy Promotions had finally exhausted all its possibilities and decided to relocate their charge to Venezuela.
“Golden Boy could not continue spending money on the kid and not getting any positive results from the NYSAC regarding his reinstatement nor the California State Athletic Commission, as far as reinstatement was concerned,” explained Hernandez. “Joel De La Hoya was just spending money on doctors and medical issues and attorneys. And so they made a decision. ‘It would be probably less expensive if we send you to Venezuela’ and that’s what [Golden Boy] did. ‘We’ll be in contact; whatever you need, we will continue supporting you.’”
It was also during this time when Valero was living in Venezuela that Hernandez speculates Valero began to drink heavily.
“He was not an alcoholic [during his early days of training in L.A.],” said Hernandez. “I don’t know if he did use drugs, but not with [me] in L.A. I think he developed that when he went back to Venezuela.”
While in Venezuela, Valero would dissolve his relationship amicably with Golden Boy and sign with Japanese-based promoter Teiken. Valero relocated to Japan and began to fight all over the world. Argentina, Panama, France, and Japan. It was during this time that he broke the consecutive first-round knockout record of 15, set in 1905 by Young Otto. Valero’s streak would end at 18 with a second-round KO of Genaro Trazancos. It was also during this period that Alcorta noticed a change in Valero.
“He had a lot of issues,” said Alcorta. “I think what hurt him the most was when he got suspended in New York. He had had big hopes that that would spring him forward, moneywise. When he went to Japan, they really spoiled him. Valero got so used to having ‘Yes Men’ around. He was getting a lot of money and his personality went a different way, to where he would start doing whatever he could just to get that money. He wasn’t looking down the line. He wanted it right then and there.”
Soon, the stage was set for Valero’s biggest test to date and his first title shot against Vincent Mosquera on August 5, 2006 in Panama. Valero, who was using different trainers through Teiken, decided to bring Hernandez back into action for this milestone.
The bout was a tough one. Valero had the game and tough Mosquera down twice in the first, but would taste canvas and went beyond the second round for the first time when Mosquera dropped him hard in the third. But Valero showed all the promise of a champion as he rose and outboxed Mosquera, en route to a tenth-round stoppage to take a portion of the 130-pound title. The fight served to legitimize Valero somewhat as more than just an internet or gym myth. It was also the beginning of Fischer and Valero’s link as honorary father and son.
“When he won, it was a huge relief; you know what I mean?” explained Valero champion Fischer. “The whole substance changed in 2004-2005, once Valero was [off-TV fighting in other countries]. I got a lot of emails saying ‘He’d get exposed if he fought here; yada, yada, yada.’ ‘His fights were on YouTube and his technique had changed [with the knockout streak.]’ ‘This guy wouldn’t last two minutes with fill-in-the-blank.’ ‘Your boy is no good.’ ‘Your boy makes Ricardo Mayorga look good.’ I was like, ‘I don’t remember adopting this guy, but I’ll go ahead and claim him and I’ll call him my son, if you call him my boy.’”
Ironically, Mosquera would never fight again, as he soon after would be tried and convicted on murder charges.
But the win also produced a different side of Valero.
“I was there when he failed the MRI in New York,” said Fischer. “He was very loving with his family. He was very sweet with his wife and kids. But after he won his title, he changed. He was pretty happy-go-lucky whenever I saw him solo. But around his family, he wasn’t that warm to them. From that point on, I never saw them smile. They seemed very solemn. After he won the 130-pound title, and after the 135-pound title, I was there and [the change of attitude] was that way, even there. No smiles. Not from the son. Not from the wife.”
Valero would go on to defend that title four times until, finally in 2009, he signed with U.S.-based promoter Top Rank and was licensed in Texas. He would take out Antonio Pitalua in a lightweight bout via second-round highlight reel KO and it seemed as if, once again, his career was on track. Talk began of Valero facing the best of the best. Humberto Soto, Manny Pacquiao and a host of names were thrown out. But also, signs of imbalance had begun to show.
Valero sported a new, full-color chest tattoo of the Venezuelan flag on his chest with Hugo Chavez on it. He would later be arrested for a DUI in the States and, upon trying to return to the U.S. after a trip home, Valero’s U.S. visa was denied.
In September of 2009, allegations surfaced Valero had beaten both his sister and his mother. He denied the allegations and claimed that they were leveled at him by political rivals. He also claimed that he was denied the U.S. visa because of his politics and support of Chavez.
Valero would fight in Venezuela in December of 2009 and again the stage was set for a title fight. This time in Mexico vs. former titleholder Antonio DeMarco on February 7, 2010. It would be Valero’s last fight.
Valero hadn’t looked so hot in his last fight and many picked him to lose. But he showed his mettle and dominated DeMarco despite a giant gash from a head butt on his head. Even with blood streaming down his face, Valero was undaunted and showed both toughness and versatility in dispatching DeMarco in nine rounds to take his second world title. All should have been golden. But it was not to be.
In late March 2010, Valero’s wife was checked into a hospital with broken bones and collapsed lung. Valero and Viera would claim it was due to a slip down some stairs. Valero would get into a scuffle with authorities and be detained. It was all downhill from there.
Despite his wife not pressing charges, Valero would admit his alcohol problems and was set to head to Cuba to enroll in a treatment facility. But he drunkenly crashed his car on the way to the airport and missed his flight. Soon after, he and Viera, who were now being watched by armed guards, would disappear only to reappear at the Hotel Intercontinental on April 15, 2010. In those early morning hours, Valero and his wife were seen talking calmly for two hours before disappearing to their room, never to be seen together again.
The loss of two parents outweighs anything in this tale. But still, what Valero could have become had he gotten help or been saved from himself will never be known and always guessed at. Both in terms of what could have been and what exactly went wrong.
“The kid just had so much talent,” said Hernandez. “I don’t think he performed after he left California. The fondest memory of him, I have never seen a fighter discipline themselves and train as Valero. And the natural talent and ability when we were in L.A. when we were sparring with some top fighters at the Olympic and at Maywood, he had all these natural moves. He disciplined himself to be a great fighter. He wanted to be the greatest fighter in the world. He had all the natural talent in the world. He was like a Picasso. He was like an artist. Then he went to Venezuela and he wanted to impress people that he had power. But he was a finesse type of fighter. What I really had fond memories [of] was that he was one of the best athletes that we have ever had as far as training. He was an animal. As far as I’m concerned I think he had the potential to be maybe not one of the greatest fighters of all time but he would have made a lot of money and would have been well known providing he had maintained that discipline which he didn’t.”
“My whole thing was he was going to keep winning,” said Fischer. “He was going to keep winning and he was going to show you guys that he’s a special fighter. I think we kind of got that. I don’t think he made believers out of everybody but I think he won enough. 27 consecutive wins by knockout and wins over guys like Mosquera and DeMarco led people to believe he had some potential. We got a little bit of a glimpse. Too bad. Not enough, man.”
“If you want to see a waste of talent, that was the guy,” said Alcorta. “It wasn’t wasted but people saw what he was but no one could know what he could’ve become still. The guy was really something special.”
There are many tragedies in this tale. The loss of a mother and husband for two innocent children who will have to learn and live with an ugly family history while growing up parentless. The loss of a potentially brilliant career. The innocent life of an all too forgiving wife snuffed out because she was too much under her husband’s control or loved him too much to leave him.
Above all, in this writer’s opinion, the greatest tragedy is that at the very least, her life could have been saved by outside forces. The writing was on the wall but no one bothered to read it.
“The sad part of all this is that the signs were all there, man,” said Alcorta. “Don’t take me out of context but you can’t blame everybody. But the signs were there. So many people could have done so many things that could have prevented this. Going all the way back to the Venezuelan judge who said “ok” when his wife had a collapsed lung. You heard all the stories about the mother getting beat up, the sister getting beat up, beating his wife, the wife getting shot, the signs were there. A lot of things could’ve been done. Should’ve been done. Missing the plane to Cuba. He was drunk. How do you let him get away with that, you know?
“Every country they can lock you up for what you do,” continued Alcorta. “But sometimes they do it as a precautionary thing. Sometimes you get locked up longer than other states. But this is a prime issue. The government really failed his wife. When he was already arrested for it and then he got out and violated the rehab and got drunk and in a car accident last week. There is no excuse for him being driving the way he was at the end and going to a hotel in the middle of the night when he was drunk again, you know? I mean that’s it. You and I know that [here] that wouldn’t happen. Perhaps after the beating they wouldn’t have needed the wife to go in and press charges. They would have done it themselves, you know? And if they ordered him into rehab, gave him a chance and violated it they wouldn’t have let him out again. Nobody could have controlled him or saved him from himself but they should have saved the girl from him. I knew his wife. I knew her personally. She was such a quiet girl. They almost had the ritual where she wouldn’t speak unless he let her speak. She was really a nice girl, young girl. She was beautiful. But she went along with whatever he said.”
The following is a statement by Rudy Hernandez who was close with the Valero family. Mr. Hernandez declined to speak on the record due to how emotional this time has been but asked me to print this statement.
“Just told my wife, he ended with a 29-0, 29 KOs! 27 fights, 27 knockouts, then he takes out his wife, and puts an end to his life. I always thought of him as a bad S.O.B.
“The story should've read one day...One of the greatest of all time has retired and will now dedicate his time with his family who have always supported him throughout his career. But it had a sad ending.
“Yesterday, seems like the whole day, I was somewhat traumatized by the whole incident, and felt hate towards Valero for putting his wife through so much crap. I couldn't help but wonder, if that were my daughter…
“Today, I feel numb! How, and why?
When I told people that he loved his wife so much, they would just say, ‘Are you kidding?’…Well he did, and when reality set in, he couldn't bear with it no more and found the easier way out!”