How Good Was Edwin Valero
By Will Lott
Former two division world champion Edwin ‘El Inca’ Valero’s name has been thrown back into the boxing spotlight with the release of Don Stradley’s book ‘Berserk: The shocking life and death of Edwin Valero’.
When you think about monster punchers you tend to think in the heavyweight division.
However, just over a decade ago it felt like there was a heavyweight punching in the 130 and 135lb division. An aggressive, come forward fighter with dynamite in both hands, Valero’s career ended with a perfect record of 27 fights, 27 wins and 27 knockouts.
A Venezuelan with a troubled background, he looked destined for superstardom but it wasn’t to be.
He created a record having won his initial 18 fights all by first round knockouts. Nine fights later he was already a two-division champion and had just vacated his WBC lightweight title in April 2010 in order to compete in the 140lb division.
This division had been recently occupied by future Hall-of-Famer, Manny Pacquiao and was a weight he could still have comfortably made.
Just a month or so later, Valero was found dead in his prison cell having hanged himself while awaiting trial for the murder of his wife.
The story of his life is one of the most tragic and horrifying that boxing has ever seen. Valero truly did ‘come up from nothing’ but he certainly had demons that he eventually succumbed to. However, if you want to find out more about his personal life you can read Don Stradley’s novella.
Rather, I want to focus on assessing how gifted a fighter he actually was. Could he really have beaten Manny Pacquiao? Was power the only reason for his success?
His first 18 fights were first round knockouts against low level opponents and journeyman. It was what allowed him to create some noise amongst boxing fans. It would be years before you heard about another fighter taking people out so easily and so frequently. However, this says more about the level of opposition than anything else.
Obviously the first thing you mention with Valero is power. If you need an example of a knockout artist, he is it. He could finish an opponent with one punch or a combination, whichever would get the job done. He would throw punches in bunches, wearing his opponent down with continued pressure and he had what every fighter wishes they had, a killer instinct, sadly both in and out of the ring.
His first notable fight saw him claim the WBA super featherweight title from Panamanian Vicente Mosquera. Mosquera was the first fighter to exploit Valero’s weak defence and put him down for the first and only time in Valero’s career, in the third round.
Mosquera was able to move and counter punch in a way Valero had never faced. The Venezuelan was always noted for keeping his chin high and his hands low, normally a style drilled out at an early age.
However, this fight showed something about Valero we hadn’t seen before. He showed heart and stamina for 10 rounds. Valero hadn’t had to show it before. He had to climb off the canvas but also continue throwing punches like a mule and it was this continued pressure which eventually broke Mosquera down and led to his stoppage victory.
Valero’s unbelievable power meant he rarely had to show his conditioning and willingness to dig deep but when it was needed it was there.
Another good example was his performance against Antonio DeMarco in his final fight. Valero fought the later rounds with a horrendous cut above his eye as DeMarco began trying to take advantage and make the wound worse.
However, Valero was able to bite down on his gumshield and again his continued forward pressure and willingness to eat three punches to throw one, again broke down DeMarco and led to his retirement at the end of the ninth round.
Add a fearsome reputation to good conditioning, heart and explosive power and you have yourself a superstar and a potential world beater.
Now let’s look at his main weakness. In the later part of his career, Valero didn’t show a particularly high boxing IQ. In fact, by the time he faced DeMarco it seemed lower than when he first stepped up to world level.
Valero would come forward in straight lines without impressive head movement, kept his hands low and his chin high. Similar to Gennady Golovkin, he was there to be hit, it was just a question of whether his opponent carried enough power to deter him. No one he faced had this ability and as such were eventually broken down whether it be late on or early.
As a result, a fighter who carried power with the ability to counter punch and who could move and punch at angles would be capable of causing Valero all kinds of trouble.
Manny Pacquiao may be an aggressive, come forward fighter himself with a questionable defence but especially at his peak, he could counter punch. He’d faced aggressive pressure fighters similar to Valero before with the likes of Juan Manuel Marguez. He throws punches at different angles to any other fighter and with fast feet and hands ‘El Inca’ would have been in all sorts of trouble.
For me, I think Pacquiao would have had to weather the storm in the early rounds but assuming he manged this would have taken Valero out by round nine.
With Valero keeping his chin as high as he did and his hands low, it would only be a matter of time before Pacquiao landed and when he did it would be a question of how good Valero’s chin was. We never truly got to see that tested.
Valero would have had the definition of a ‘punchers chance’ against Pacquiao. One thing is for sure though, it would have been a barn burner from the off and a sure thing for a fight of the year candidate. Sadly we never got to see this much talked about fight come to fruition but it will remain many fight fans’ dream fantasy match-up.