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Banned in U.S. since '04, Valero granted license in Texas

Junior lightweight titleholder Edwin Valero, who has been banned from fighting in the United States since 2004 because of a medical suspension in New York, has been granted a license in Texas and intends to fight there.

"I am very pleased to know that Texas has approved my license," Valero said Tuesday in a statement released by his Japanese promoter, Teiken Promotions. "It has been four years since I have boxed in the United States. I am back! I will deliver my best performance ever when I fight in Texas.

"Thank you to the officials who made this possible and to all the fans who have supported me. I will make you proud," he said.

Valero, a 26-year-old southpaw with tremendous one-punch power, is training in Las Vegas with Kenny Adams to get ready for a mandatory fight against Argentina's Israel Perez on June 12 in Tokyo. After that bout, Valero said he hopes to fight in Texas in September.

In January 2004, Valero, who is from Venezuela, was based in California. He was 12-0 with 12 first-round knockouts and had just signed with Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, which had lined him up to make his American television debut on an HBO Latino card in New York.

Valero, however, failed a pre-fight medical test because of an abnormality revealed on his MRI exam, which was the result of him suffering a blood clot on his brain years earlier in a motorcycle accident.

New York officials refused to license Valero and placed him on the indefinite suspension list. Under the rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions, that meant he was also not allowed to fight anywhere else in the United States.

Although Valero was later cleared to box by several California doctors, New York refused to remove him from the suspension list. Valero, who is managed by De La Hoya's father, Joel De La Hoya Sr., sat idle for 16 months before taking his massive knockout power to Japan, where he signed with Teiken and eventually won a 130-pound world title.

But Valero (23-0, 23 KOs), who has 19 first-round knockouts, has always wanted to fight in America, where there is bigger money to be made.

For the past several months, Teiken, with help from Golden Boy, has been laying the foundation for him to be licensed here. A break came several months ago when a court ruling in New York went in favor of a fighter who had challenged an indefinite medical suspension. It forced New York officials to acknowledge that a boxer who isn't licensed in the state can't be suspended.

Since Valero, 26, never had a New York license, his indefinite suspension was changed to a denial of license, New York State Athletic Commission chairman Ron Scott Stevens told ESPN.com. Stevens said the change in status impacted about six fighters in all.

In mid-February, Valero went to Texas and, in addition to passing the basic tests the state requires for boxers to receive a license, he also passed MRI (head) and EKG (heart) exams and was examined by a neurologist and neurosurgeon, Dickie Cole of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation told ESPN.com.

Cole said Valero's license was approved on March 19.

In December, when Valero was preparing for a fight in Mexico that was televised on American pay-per-view and served as his first U.S. TV exposure, he talked about how important it was for him to be able to fight here.

"It's important for me because I am in my prime," he said. "I want to be given that opportunity. It's not going to count when I'm 30. I want it while I am in my prime so I can fight against the best of the best in the division. I want that chance now, not when I am 30.

"But I have all the faith in the world that I will be fighting in the U.S. next year," he said. "With Golden Boy and Mr. [Akihiko] Honda [of Teiken] behind me, I believe that opportunity will eventually be given to me, and I am hoping it is in 2008. I would like to fight the best at 130 pounds."

Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer.