THE DISINHERITED: Edwin Valero 1981-2010



“Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs.”
Philip Larkin


In the ring, Edwin Valero was riveting, and the strange quality that defined his style–an uncommon cruelty–was couched strictly in boxing terms throughout his career. Now we can say it, though we may not want to believe it: Yes, his bloodlust appeared to be a natural extension of his fractured psyche. Over the years, several fighters with similarly destructive styles–among them Mike Tyson, Frank Fletcher, Tony Ayala, and James Kirkland–have found themselves unable to curb their hostility.


Make no mistake about it: for Valero, going for the KO in every fight was a conscious decision, a way to ensure his popularity in the ring. There is nothing fluky about his improbable 100 percent knockout ratio. “The fans love a knockout,” he once told La Prensa. “It is similar to when someone hits a homerun in baseball or scores a goal playing soccer. Knockouts are like that.” But his ferocity between the ropes was also a psychological correlative.


Like many boxers, what made Valero uniquely suited for boxing– impulsivity, aggression, a willing disregard for consequences, rage, the ability to momentarily suspend morality in pursuit of a knockout– made him unsuitable for life beyond the ring.


Now the requisite handwringing will begin. Scapegoats will be sought. More lurid details, highlighted by even more lurid prose, will soon emerge. His accomplishments in the ring will be parsed. Blame and moralizing will follow. No longer a figure whose exploits excite us, no longer someone we can live through vicariously, Valero, in death, is repellent, and his viciousness in the ring becomes chilling in retrospect, brief glimpses of a soul perpetually in extremis. Edwin Valero was a sick man. By all accounts an alcoholic and drug addict with an explosive temper, Valero pitilessly abused his wife, in what can be read as grotesque parodies of his feats in the ring, and terrorized those around him with his manic behavior. Finally, his rage escalated to the point where, in a drug and alcohol-fueled haze, he stabbed his wife to death. Jennifer Carolina Viera was only twenty-four years old.


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?


“The merciful man doeth good to his own soul; but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.” PROVERBS 11:17


In the end, boxing is irrelevant to the tragic case of Edwin Valero unless, of course, it is not. If the violence inherent in boxing did not aggravate his dark side, if blows to the head did not alter his personality for the worse (as trauma to the frontal lobe has been known to do on occasion), if being rewarded for what amounts to antisocial behavior in the ring did not skew an outlook on life no doubt already awry, then we must simply attribute his murderous rage to a personality disorder, to sheer barbarism, to drug and alcohol abuse, to being nothing more than a horribly flawed human being. Depressed, bitter, suicidal, beset by demons, he was, despite fame and a certain amount of material success, one of the disinherited. What matters, then, is that he was more like you and me than we would like to believe.


Edwin Valero is born in 1981 in Merida. He is raised during an era when poverty in Venezuela is estimated to have been anywhere from 35 to 65 percent. His parents split when he is young. As a child, Valero engages in frequent street fights. His mother sells fruit from a cart. Valero drops out of school early. By the age of 11 or 12 Valero is homeless and living on the streets of La Palmita. He gets a job in a bicycle shop. The owner is an ex-boxer and encourages him to take up the sport. In spite of the hardships of his life, or perhaps because of them, Valero excels. Although Valero is known as a hardpunching brawler throughout his professional career, he is a standout amateur as a teenager. In fact, he wins the Venezuela amateur championship three times. He also wins the Central & South American amateur championships in 2000. In Venezuela, a woman dies every two days as a result of domestic violence.


“All your houses are haunted by the person you might have been.”
Hilary Mantel


Above all, there is that poignant sense of loss, the end of all futures for Jennifer Carolina Viera, and, yes, for Valero as well. Then there are the dramatically altered–or disfigured–futures, those of the Valero children, as well as families and friends of both killer and victim. For Valero, who stated plainly that he wanted to be remembered as a legend, there will only be yesterdays. Tomorrow, he will amount to nothing more than a future nightmare, one best left forgotten.


El Universal: If you had the opportunity to ask God a question, what would it be?

Edwin Valero: If it is true that heaven really exists, and, if we are up there, if we can see everyone who remains here below.


This article was originally published in April 2010.

Tags: Edwin Valero

  • danny

    valero had the brutal side of pacman, but brutality is only a third of what made pacman.

    pacman has a life beyond boxing, valero should’ve fought everyday because boxing is the only civilized life for valero.

    • Carlos Acevedo

      Hi Danny,

      I can’t disagree with you at all.

  • gmb

    Carlos: Wonderfully written and very thoughtful. I think that many are attempting to make sense out of the useless tragedy that happened with this young man, his wife and their families. Thanks for sharing your perspective here.

    • Carlos Acevedo

      Hi gmb,

      thanks for the kind words. It’s exactly as you say–many are just trying to make sense of what happened, and I couldn’t in a formal or straightforward way…the sheer awfulness overwhelms the senses….

  • johnpaulfutbol

    Hey Carlos,

    Excellent post, really. This is just a horrific situation. There is no justifying what Valero did. But, your post really drove home, at least for me…the point that we all have more in common with Valero than not.

    I grew up in a household with domestic violence and addiction..and it’s really bizarre how people can be enabled by those they hurt the most, at times.

    As a struggling/practicing Catholic, I have to believe that God’s capacity to forgive is greater than man’s to sin. I’m not sympathetic toward Valero at all, obviously my sympathies lie with his wife, children and any family/friends that are touched by this. My thoughts and prayers to all involved, including Edwin Valero…as hard as it is for me to find any sympathetic/merciful feelings toward him.

    Since picking up McIlvanney’s “the Hardest Game” I’ve been thinking about his statement that boxing is not a metaphor for violence, it is violence. It’s a reality that I think would make a lot of fight fans squirm if they thought about it. That idea casts a shadow over things such as how a fight might be scored..or things as awful as the Edwin Valero situation. Fortunately although boxing has it’s share of horror stories, it seems that there’s a greater correlation between boxing saving men from lives of violence rather than leading them into lives of violence.

    • Carlos Acevedo

      Hi JPF,

      thanks for writing and sharing your thoughts on something so horrifying it can hardly sink in even now.

      This post is just a sort of meditation….what drove it is so senseless that to make a coherent narrative of it was beyond me at the time. It is truly a depressing situation. Naturally, when something incredible like this occurs, everybody all of a sudden wakes up an expert on homicide, South American politics, drugs, Venezuelan prisons, epistemology, etc. And this is with me avoiding as much as possible the American press! Instead, I read mostly the South American media outlets, many of them cannibalized by boxing websites in the U.S. who refuse to give credit for sources, thereby giving the false impression that they were asleep outside of Valero’s prison cell when everything happened there. Typical.

      The cheap moralizing, predictable grandstanding, poor taste, rampant egotism, and bad prose can only be expected from a crew as self-centered as the fight media. Boxing is the only sport on earth where the press feels superior to the athletes. In this case, Valero becomes another “narrative” to co-opt for the aforementioned purposes. My point, I think, was to call for a “human” response to what happened, not one driven by the “industry” point of view. I don’t know if that makes any sense at all.

      Boxing is a part of this story–maybe a bigger one than most realize- -but it is not the ultimate focus here. Whatever madness drove Valero to kill the young, beautiful mother of his children and then kill himself will remain a mystery. The number of hazards fighters face after/outside of boxing is astonishing: Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, suicide, alcoholism, prison, drug addiction, and being murdered are grim reminders that prizefighting is, in itself, hard labor, and the hard lives of many who fight for sustenance (as well as for other, darker reasons) can oftentimes not be distinguished from their chosen vocation: hurting and being hurt. As you mentioned with McIlvanney, boxing is violence, stylized through athletic grace and ritual, and it often -not always, maybe not even close to always – - takes a special aptitude for violence to succeed at it. Whether it saves many lives or merely delays the inevitable, I can’t say for sure.

      Anyway, this is going off the rails, I guess. As a lapsed Catholic myself, I would like to find it in me to be able to pray for Jennifer Carolina Viera, for her children, for Valero, too. But the world is colder and harder than well-adjusted keyboard hacks believe, and I haven’t prayed in a long, long time.

      • gmb1


        Just wondering what you are gleening from the South American media outlets in connection with Jennifer Carolina Viera and her children. Is there any information on her life beyond this incident? Did she come from the same background as Edwin Valero? No doubt additional details will come about regarding Edwin Valero and his life (it appearing now that many knew of his prolonged and abundant abuse of alcohol and drugs), but I was just curious about his wife and whether her brief life story is being told at all.

        • Carlos Acevedo

          Hi gmb,

          Unfortunately, the little uncovered about Jennifer Carolina Viera is depressing in its skimpiness as well as what that skimpiness symbolizes. Her life appears to have been lived in the shadow of constant terror.

          According to her parents, she left home to live with Valero when she was only 14 years old. From that point on, she appears to have been a virtual prisoner, with Valero dominating and torturing her for a decade. Her parents urged her to leave Valero, but she never did. Valero lived on the streets as a child, ran with gangs, and abused alcohol, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, marijuana, and crack by the time he reached his mid-teens.

          Jennifer Carolina Viera remains a cipher; even in death, she functions symbolically as a victim of neglect. While her assassin, her husband, is all over the internet, radio, TV, and newspapers, Viera seems almost an afterthought. But that just be my perspective. Her death, however, has brought attention to domestic abuse in Venezuela (and elsewhere) and we can only hope some good, however small, comes out of this atrocity.

          • gmb1


            How terribly sad. I had hoped you would tell me that she had a good life until things turned badly at the end. I cannot pretend to understand how a parent would permit their 14 year old daughter to leave home to live with a young man, but I have been blessed not to come from circumstances where that might be a necessity. I am not condemning her parents, and perhaps Jennifer Carolina Viera had her own issues as well. For this woman and countless others like her, however, to become a footnote to this sad affair is depressing. I cannot imagine her terror and sadness and wonder what points in her young life provided happiness. So many questions swirl in my mind about her and her relationship with this man, who was supposed to provide and care for her. What attracted her to Edwin Valero, and did she still see that at the end? Was she constantly trying to please him only to suffer from his unpredictable and whimsical anger and abuse? Did she experience the excitement and anticipation when she discovered she would become a mother? Did she enjoy nurturing her children and family and look forward to watching them grow? What dreams did she harbor in her heart and did she dare to share them in her most intimate moments with those who loved her? I wonder how Edwin Valero acted with his children and whether they felt any love from him, or if he could show his wife and children love and care. Did she smile to herself when she watched her husband interact with their children? Likely Edwin Valero did not have much example of caring in his life. I cannot identify why this particular event has struck a major chord within me, but it certainly has. I hope that the attention she has focused on domestic abuse does indeed bring some good. Certainly in the U.S. press she is an afterthought and only an introductory sentence or paragraph to a discourse on the fistic prowess of her husband. It frightens me to think that the same prowess that provided him with a potentially wealthy career and inspired awe in many fans was honed by practicing on her. Thanks for communicating on this topic, Carlos.

      • johnpaulfutbol

        Hey Carlos,

        What you’ve said makes a lot of sense. Your post/meditation definitely provokes a “human” response. One of the functions of art is to give you something to contemplate or think about, this post succeeds there in my opinion.

        I was going to ramble further on my original post, but didn’t want to “go off the rails” myself.

        Anyway, thank you for this post, and your well considered reply. I always appreciate it.

        • Carlos Acevedo

          Hi JPF,

          Despite rumors to the contrary, I always aspire to be human on TCS. Thanks much for your input. You can go off the rails as much as you want here, man, this is where the Crazy Train runs express!