It's been about 48 hours since word came from Venezuela that former two-division titlist Edwin Valero had been arrested for the murder of his wife, Jennifer Carolina Viera. It has been about a day since we learned of the jail cell suicide of the fighter.
I'm typing this without knowing exactly what I want to say, or even if there really is much more to say than has already been said. Over the years, boxing has had no shortage of criminals and miscreants come through the ranks, and no shortage of talent wasted due to an inability to function in everyday life within the laws of society. Edwin Valero's tale is among the most vile and tragic, however.
I'll say that I don't think this is a black eye for boxing. What Edwin Valero did in his final days had nothing to do with boxing. His status as a world-class professional boxer didn't matter by then. It shouldn't have mattered before then, when Valero last year was accused of assaulting his mother and wife. Everyone denied it, and Valero got back to his life, eventually making his debut on Showtime in February, one of the biggest fights of his career and a chance to show his stuff to a wider American audience than ever before.
It shouldn't have mattered a few weeks ago, when reports from Venezuela came out that Valero had viciously beaten his wife, leaving the young woman with a collapsed lung, bite marks, and other injuries. The late wife of the late fighter supposedly said she fell down some stairs. The couple was ordered to enter couples' therapy, while Valero was to go to Cuba for alcohol rehabilitation.
It was terrifying to think at the time, but also a cold and sobering reality: if something didn't change, and apparently no one was really going to make anything happen, this was not going to end well. While these stories were all but dismissed and brushed under the rug by those involved, and by the officials who allowed Valero to walk free, the reality was that these things happened, that Edwin Valero was that sort of man. That you couldn't just ignore these things and hope he stopped. The whole thing was continually escalating.
He didn't make it to Cuba for rehab. He missed his flight and crashed his car. Again, he went free. After the murder of his wife and his own suicide, Edwin Valero's life started becoming a bit more clear, and I am guessing we will learn even more. Family members described Valero as "a very violent person" who had his wife's family living in fear for years. With political backing in Venezuela, Valero had a lot of clout in his home country. He was a noted supporter of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. That sort of association, and his standing as a national hero who brought pride to Venezuela, gave him way too much slack when it came to punishment.
His wife's uncle, Evelio Finol, blames the country's government, and also says that Valero had drugged his wife for years. From BoxingScene.com:
"[We never said anything because] we were threatened with death. We have to take the blame for what happened [for not speaking up earlier], but so do the authorities of this country and President Hugo Chávez. Because Valero was an athlete, he received preferential treatment, so they too are responsible for what happened," Evelio Finol said.
"Jennifer's death can not go unpunished. If he would have been sent to mental hospital, they would have said he wasn't crazy. He was keeping Jennifer on drugs since January when they lived in Caracas. He forced her to take them, or else he would have killed her, her children and her mother. During the ten years of marriage, she was always under threat of death."
In the same article, Valero's mother says her son was an abuser of alcohol and drugs for over a decade, and that the country's legal system failed him. The country's legal system failed more than just Edwin Valero.
As a fighter, Valero's style could be rightly and honestly described as having been exceptionally violent. On more than one occasion, fans and media alike commented on his "crazy eyes" -- he was like a movie villain in certain photographs. Valero was a boxer who had enormous power, and seemed to punch from somewhere deep down. Boxing is a violent sport by nature, of course. ESPN's Kieran Mulvaney commented on the Heavy Hitter podcast that many fighters exhibit great rage inside the ring, when they're at work. Valero was one who could not leave that rage in the ring. It came with him everywhere he went.
It is clear now that this behavior did not suddenly crop up in the last year or so. During Valero's entire professional career, apparently, he was this man -- a dangerous, violent person with serious drug and alcohol problems, which no doubt did nothing to help him.
While this whole thing still seems like something of a bad dream, where it's hard to believe this all really happened in the last two days and change, there is so much more than what we already know. And this will not just go away. Two young children now must face a long road ahead of them, with both of their parents dead, their father having murdered their mother, and then committing suicide. Their entire worlds have been turned upside down. I cannot imagine trying to make sense of this as an adult, let alone as a child.
It is a sorrowful thing that it came to this point. There are a whole lot of people who are going to have to live with what happened, wondering whether or not they could have prevented it from going this far. So many lives have been affected by this that I somewhat regretfully can say that outside of the base human anger anyone feels over an injustice of this magnitude, I almost feel numb to the situation.
From my office chair, I'll go on watching fights on Saturday night, trying to analyze things like how good Vitali Klitschko really is anymore, laughing at James Toney quotes, getting winners of fights wrong in my predictions with an almost scary anti-accuracy. As saddened as I am by these events, this will likely not weigh on me for years to come. Too many people can't say that.
We at Bad Left Hook send our heartfelt best wishes to those who knew and loved Jennifer Carolina Viera, especially her two children. May you find peace.