By T.K. Stewart (photo by Tom Casino/Showtime)
Edwin Valero was first an Internet sensation on YouTube. With freakish displays of punching power, he began his professional boxing career by knocking out his first eighteen opponents - in the first round. To say that he wasn undergound superstar would be an understatement.
So just how popular is Edwin Valero now?
Well, he is most certainly the most talked about fighter that many boxing fans have never actually seen. A simple sparring session that was recorded and posted to YouTube a few years back, has, at last count, garnered nearly 300,000 views. His April 2009 bout versus Antonio Pitalua is now at over 200,000 hits - and counting.
His ring record currently stands at an unbelievable twenty-six knockouts in twenty-six straight fights - and nobody has lasted past the tenth round with him. He has won world titles at 130 and 135 pounds and tonight from Monterrey, Mexico, Valero will finally make his long awaited U.S. television debut when he defeds his WBC lightweight title against Antonio Demarco on Showtime.
“I believe that the sport of boxing is all about punching,” said Valero, a Venezuelan native, during a recent chat with reporters. “Some people look at my style and they say all I can do is punch or they say it is not attractive. Well, I say that’s what I know how to do best - I throw punches.”
But YouTube sensation or not, Valero has been kept out of American rings for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he suffered a head injury in a 2001 motorcycle accident that made it so a “spot” showed up on a routine 2004 MRI brain scan.
The medical community in this country deemed the “spot” as too dangerous to allow him into the ring and they suspended his boxing license. What followed was that Valero became a worldwide vagabond who would fight in any country that would allow him. He gloved up and continued his winning ways in Argentina, Panama, Venezuela, France, Mexico and Japan. He did, however, manage to get one fight in Texas in April of last year.
But shortly after that step forward, his progression to become established here in America suffered a body-blow when he was nabbed in May 2009 for DUI in Texas. Ever since, Valero has been denied a visa to re-enter the country.
“My goal is to continue to fight in the United States and I understand that’s where the opportunities are,” Valero says. “My promoter, Bob Arum, is working on getting me a visa so that I can return. I'm going to guess that in the next three months that we’ll get that done.”
It could be wishful thinking on his part, but the one thing Edwin Valero doesn’t seem to dwell on is obstacles. He makes short work of opponents in the ring and when he was denied the opportunity to make a living here in the U.S. - he simply packed up his gym bag and fought just about everywhere else. The knockouts didn’t stop coming and the buzz that surrounded the sinewy man who goes by the nicknames “El Inca” or “Dinamita” never ceased.
The one thing that Edwin Valero has learned is that knockouts and knockout power have no linguistic, cultural or geographical boundaries. People the world over love to see a puncher and as a result, home is where Edwin Valero decides to make it.
“I can tell you that I’m very happy to be fighting in Mexico again,” Valero explains. “I’m Venezuelan, yes, but when I fight here, I feel like I'm at home. For me, fighting in Mexico is actually a benefit for me and I look forward to it. Mexican fans are great boxing fans and they know this sport very well.”
The critics of Valero, and there are lots of them, maintain that he is a crude brawler with little technique or legitimate boxing skills. He has yet to beat a well-known, world-class fighter and he changes trainers with the frequency that some change their socks. He was arrested in Venezuela in 2009 for allegedly beating up a family member and public intoxication, but those charges were later dropped. It's those types of things the naysayers point to when they launch their criticism.
Valero, however, takes all of his detractors and hardships in stride.
“I really don't pay attention to what people think about me,” he says. “I do what I do because I want to do it. The way I live, that’s just me. It's not that I'm controversial, it just may come across as controversial, but I live the way I do, I train the way I do because I want to.”
He proudly sports a large tattoo of the Venezuelan flag and President Hugo Chavez on his chest. While many in the U.S. have a negative perception of Chavez, Valero is an unabashed supporter. He has even gone so far as to claim the reason he has really been denied a visa to re-enter the U.S. is because of his support of the controversial Chavez.
One thing, however, that becomes clear when you watch Valero fight is that although he is awkward in the ring, he is very effective. A southpaw, he has quick hands and is extremely aggressive. Defense is not one of his specialties. But when his bone hammers land, the shots are absolutely devastating. His gym sessions are the stuff of legend as stories abound of him knocking out other fighters, even while wearing oversized sparring gloves and headgear.
Valero understands full well the allure of his clubbing punching power, but he often downplays its attractiveness.
“I really don’t go into any fight looking for a quick knockout,” he explains. “I try and measure my opponent and get my timing down and go from there. I’m in there to do a job, which is to win and stay undefeated and keep my title. There was pressure on me when I was winning all those fights in the first round. But once that ended, so did the pressure. Now, I take it round by round and let the knockout come.”
And tonight on your TV - the Internet sensation finally comes to life.
In the Corners
Hard to believe, but the promoter of Bernard Hopkins vs. Roy Jones II is asking $750 per ringside seat. I don't know about you, but seven hundred and fifty large is just about the last thing in the world I would spend that kind of money on - and I've got it to spend if I so desire. Who? (I ask) Is going to spend that kind of money to watch a 45-year-old safety first boxer face a 41-year-old shell of his former self? I mean, Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones, Jr. is just so...1993. The first fight was crap - why would this one be any better?...Nice to see Nick Charles back on the air last weekend. Nick and I exchanged a series of e-mails not long after he began treatement for bladder cancer. Although I was the one trying to make him feel better - somehow - it was me who felt better after reading his responses. He's one of the good guys my friends, and when the man upstairs made Nick Charles - he broke the mold...Not that I'm saying anything you don't already know, but Joshua Clottey is having somewhat of a hectic training camp, is he not? First, his regular trainer was denied entry into the U.S. Then it was announced that Clottey was to begin training in Florida right away. Then it was announced he was training in New York City, but was going to Florida to set up shop. Now, I don't know about you, but if I was Joshua Clottey and I was getting ready to face Manny Pacquiao - I wouldn't be feeling real good about how things are going so far.
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