Valero's first fight as a professional took place on 9 July 2002 - he was 20 years old and, setting a precedent that would continue for his next 17 fights, stopped opponent Eduardo Hernandez in the first round.
The young Venezuelan was rapidly making a name for himself on both the big stage and behind the scenes. As aggressive in sparring as he was in real fights, and reportedly flooring many of his partners, there wasn't exactly a queue of boxers willing to give him rounds.
One man who did spar Valero several was a young Mikey Garcia. Garcia said about sparring Valero:
"The power was just unbelievable. No matter where he hit you, even if you were blocking it [you could] just feel the f***ing power man. He never really took it light on anybody - he was just trying to knock you out...he was vicious, mean that guy."
Garcia went on to suggest that Valero would show no restraint when sparring inexperienced fighters, saying: "He just wanted to knock everybody out."
Garcia's account gives us some insight into the mentality of Valero. Everything was a fight for him - there were no exceptions.
In 2006 Valero challenged for his first world title, taking on Panama's Vicente Mosquera for the WBA super-featherweight belt. At this point, Valero had only heard the bell to end the first round once, when Genaro Trazancos extended him into the second.
Mosquera was the first man to put up a fight against Valero, taking him into the tenth round and genuinely making him work but ultimately suffering the same fate as those that came before him.
Now a world champion, Valero would defend his title 4 times - stopping all 4 opponents before moving up to lightweight to challenge for the WBC strap. He needed just 2 rounds to get the job done against the experienced Antonio Pitalúa.
He'd defend that title twice - first stopping Héctor Velázquez in the seventh before forcing Antonio DeMarco to the retire on his tool at the end of the 9th.
On paper, DeMarco was expected to be the toughest test of Valero's career, but despite suffering a nasty gash on the forehead from a stray elbow, and DeMarco having patches of success, Valero dominated the encounter.
DeMarco would be Valero's last opponent. Shortly after the fight, Valero vacated the WBC belt, intending to move up and win a third title at super-lightweight - something that would never happen.
The night prior to police finding Valero dead in his cell, he and his wife, Jennifer Carolina Viera, had been staying at a hotel in the Venezuelan city of Valencia where Valero is claimed to have told hotel staff that he had murdered his wife. Shortly after, she was found dead, having been stabbed three times.
It was reported that Valero, who was heavily intoxicated, put up no resistance during the arrest and that the police, knowing he could be a potential suicide risk, took the precaution of removing his belt and shoelaces before leaving him in his cell. Those precautions, however, proved insufficient.
At a glance, Valero's dominant rise to the top looks almost like a boxing fairytale, but it wasn't all as straightforward as his perfect record might have you believe. Behind the scenes, it's alleged, there was heavy drug/alcohol use and several allegations of violence. By all accounts, Valero was a troubled man.
It's also worth noting that before turning pro, Valero suffered major head trauma in a motorbike accident, and as a result, would face sanctioning issues later in his career. In 2004, a failed brain scan meant that for a time, Valero was banned entirely from fighting with the United States, later being cleared to fight only in the state of Texas.
Though the brain damage can't possibly be used to excuse murder, it has been suggested that in an already volatile man, who spent 8 years getting punched in the head for a living, the brain damage may have had its part to play in whatever events lead him to kill his wife.
Valero's story is tragic for many reasons - the unrealised potential, the loss of life, the children left behind - but perhaps most unsettling is that it might have been prevented had the authorities done more to protect Jennifer Carolina Viera, who had already been hospitalised from abuse just one month prior to the murder. The San Diego Union Tribune quoted Valero's manager, Jose Castillo as saying: "We all looked away not to admit what was going on...[the authorities] were very permissive with him and because of that we’re now in the middle of this tragedy."
Valero was a hero in his country, and this perhaps allowed him to get away with the prolonged and rather public campaign of abuse that culminated in one of boxing's saddest stories.
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