Power-punching Venezuelan ready to break into public spotlight

Updated: December 14, 2007

Arnulfo Franco/AP Photo

Edwin Valero, left, isn't one to back down from an all-out brawl.

Valero finally set for U.S. TV debut

It was January 2004, and boxing fans were buzzing about Venezuelan phenom Edwin Valero, whose reputation as a massive knockout puncher quickly had become the stuff of legend, although he had never fought on television.

The dynamic junior lightweight was 12-0, with all of his wins coming via first-round knockout. He was set to make his television debut in New York against Francisco Lorenzo on a Golden Boy Promotions HBO Latino undercard.

Edwin Valero

Mehdi Fedouch/Getty Images

Edwin Valero would love a chance to fight in the U.S. while he's still in his prime.

However, before the bout, the New York State Athletic Commission denied Valero a license, having found a problem with his MRI exam. Valero had previously suffered a blood clot on his brain as the result of a motorcycle accident. In refusing to license Valero, New York also placed him on the national suspension list.

Although Valero later was cleared to box by several California doctors, New York refused to remove him from the suspension list, meaning no other jurisdiction in the United States could license him, either. Valero, managed by Joel De La Hoya Sr., Oscar De La Hoya's father, wound up sitting out for 16 months -- all of 2004 and the early part of 2005 -- before resuming his career and eventually relocating to Japan.

Although he was not allowed to fight in the U.S., Valero's career blossomed. He continued to rack up first-round knockouts, scoring 18 in a row before finally being extended into the second round, and won a world title by knocking out Vicente Mosquera in the 10th round of a slugfest in August 2006 in Panama City, Mosquera's hometown.

Valero (now 22-0, 22 KOs), a southpaw, has gone on to make two title defenses in Japan and is set for his third defense against Mexico's Zaid Zavaleta (15-2-3, 11 KOs).

But what makes Saturday night's fight at the Plaza de Toros in Cancun, Mexico, a bit more special for Valero, 26, is that almost four years after he was supposed to make his American television debut, he finally will.

His fight headlines "Cancun Night of Champions" (9 p.m. ET), the final pay-per-view card of the year. The card features four bouts, including flashy 22-year-old featherweight titleholder Jorge Linares (24-0, 15 KOs), also of Venezuela, against Mexican mandatory challenger Gamaliel Diaz (22-6-2, 9 KOs).

"Valero may be the hardest puncher in the world right now. When you have dynamite in your hands, you're gonna make fans, and he has dynamite in his hands," said Lou DiBella, who is co-promoting the card with Teiken Promotions' Akihiko Honda, Japan's No. 1 promoter. "When he lands, he has that one-punch knockout power that is God-given and rare. When he hits you, you get hurt. He's not a polished all-around fighter like Linares, but he comes out with that pure aggressiveness, and if that hammer lands, you're f---ed."

Valero hopes the American exposure ultimately will lead to him being able to fight here.

Cancun Night of Champions
TV lineup for the Saturday night's pay-per-view card (9 ET, $29.95) from the Plaza de Toros in Cancun, Mexico:

• Junior lightweights: Edwin Valero (22-0, 22 KOs) vs. Zaid Zavaleta (15-2-3, 11 KOs), 12 rounds, for Valero's title

• Featherweights: Jorge Linares (24-0, 15 KOs) vs. Gamaliel Diaz (22-6-2, 9 KOs), 12 rounds, for Linares' title

• Featherweights: Naoki Matsuda (28-7-3, 11 KOs) vs. Rudolfo Lopez (20-4-1, 14 KOs), rematch, 12 rounds, title eliminator

• Featherweights: Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (9-0, 8 KOs) vs. Jorge Cardenas (9-4-3, 6 KOs), 8 rounds

-- Dan Rafael

"It's a big step for me to finally be seen in America, and it's going to open a lot of doors for me for bigger and better things," Valero said through translator Rudy Hernandez, his assistant trainer.

Although nobody wants to talk about it publicly, Golden Boy and Honda are working behind the scenes to get Valero licensed in America, including having conversations with Texas officials.

Although Valero has made a life for himself in boxing, he said his dream is to be able to fight in the U.S., especially on a big card in Las Vegas.

"It's important for me because I am in my prime," Valero said. "I want to be given that opportunity. It's not going to count when I'm 30. I want in 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. With Golden Boy and Mr. Honda 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, and that would be Manny Pacquiao."

Valero said he plans to display his calling-card power against Zavaleta.

"I understand they want to see a knockout, and if the opportunity presents itself, I'll have knockout No. 23. I am hoping to knock him out, as well as everyone else. I know the crowd loves knockouts. It's like hitting a home run or getting a goal in a soccer game. I will go out there and try to knock him out just like I did with the previous fighters."

DiBella, who has been following Valero and Linares for years, has been impressed with Valero's power after watching him train and on video.

"Until he's in there with an incredibly fast or slick kid of high quality, almost everyone is going to sleep against him," DiBella said. "If you don't have incredible speed or anything to keep him off you, he's going to bang you and you are going to get hurt."

Next for De La Hoya

Oscar De La Hoya

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Oscar De La Hoya had hoped Ricky Hatton would have given a good account of himself against Floyd Mayweather, but it wasn't to be.

Oscar De La Hoya's plan for his ring future was clear: If Ricky Hatton beat Floyd Mayweather, he would fight Hatton in May. And if Hatton lost a close, competitive fight, he also could tap Hatton as his spring opponent. So what now, after Hatton was wiped out by Mayweather last week in a fight De La Hoya promoted?

"I don't want to say any plans," De La Hoya said. "I'm gonna absorb this wonderful event and continue to keep training and enjoy the holidays with my family. There's many options out there. You heard my [promotional] partner 'Sugar' Shane Mosley wanting a piece of Floyd. Let's enjoy the holidays. We'll eat our little tamales and see if we can make 147, which I feel we can."

When pressed again about the viability of a fight with Hatton in the wake of the lopsided loss, De La Hoya said, "The reason why it would be viable would be because of his style. It would be a clash of the titans. You can't rule anything out. All doors are open. I'm gonna wait until Saturday night and watch the replay [on HBO] and decide after that."

If De La Hoya doesn't fight Hatton, a rematch with Mayweather is only a remote possibility because of Mayweather's plan to take most of next year off. The other logical opponent would be titleholder Miguel Cotto.

Juan Diaz update

Unified lightweight titlist Juan Diaz and interim beltholder Michael Katsidis have signed to fight each other in a mandatory bout Feb. 9 in an HBO main event, but that doesn't mean the fight will happen.

Golden Boy, representing Katsidis, won the purse bid last month for $1.5 million and has an arena in Diaz's native Houston on hold. However, Diaz is promoted by Don King, who hasn't signed off on the fight, which he must do if Diaz is to fight for another promoter.

Diaz's contract with King runs out March 31, and manager Willie Savannah, who has been upset with King virtually since the day they signed with him last year, says they will not re-sign. Because King knows he is about to lose Diaz, Savannah said King has demanded they sign an extension or pay him $2 million for a release to fight Katsidis.

"We sent King letters telling him has to make a fight before March 31. Besides Katsidis, we told him [King-promoted mandatory] Nate Campbell or [titleholder] David Diaz, but he doesn't respond or nothing," Savannah told ESPN.com. "As far as I am concerned, he's made no attempt to make a fight. My mind tells me he passed on the fight and he shouldn't be involved in anything … He's trying to screw a 24-year-old college kid." If Diaz-Katsidis doesn't happen, HBO would like to keep Katsidis, the brawling Australian, on the card against a different opponent.



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• Welterweight champ Floyd Mayweather, fresh from his dominant 10th-round knockout of Ricky Hatton last Saturday, flew to New York on Thursday for some media appearances. He took time out to talk to ESPN.com and said he thought Hatton, 29, should consider retirement. "I hope Ricky Hatton is able get to through this one," Mayweather said by telephone. "This is tough on him and his family. I know he's been through a lot of wars. I don't think he should fight again. A fight of this magnitude can really tear you down mentally and physically. The wars, like his fight with Kostya Tszyu and me, eventually catch up to you like they did with [recently retired] Fernando Vargas and Erik Morales."


• Promoter Don King is putting his No. 1 prospect, 20-year-old junior welterweight Devon Alexander (13-0, 8 KOs), on the Jan. 19 Felix Trinidad-Roy Jones HBO PPV card at Madison Square Garden. No opponent has been finalized for the flashy St. Louis fighter, but Alexander's bout will open the telecast.


• Junior welterweight titlist Ricardo Torres, the Colombian puncher, will defend his title on the Feb. 16 Kelly Pavlik-Jermain Taylor II HBO PPV undercard in Las Vegas. However, rather than a rematch with Kendall Holt or facing rising prospect Victor Ortiz, both of whom were discussed, Torres (32-1, 28 KOs) will face Mike Alvarado (19-0, 13 KOs), one of Top Rank's rising contenders. Shelly Finkel, Alvarado's co-manager, told ESPN.com that they have received a contract and accepted the fight.


• Middleweight Sergio Mora (19-0-1, 4 KOs), the first-season winner of "The Contender," will try to pick up the pieces of his falling career Jan. 11. He will headline a Telefutura card against an opponent to be named at the Morongo resort in Cabazon, Calif. After 14 months without a fight, in part because he stunningly rejected a shot at then-middleweight champion Jermain Taylor because he didn't want to fight in Memphis, Tenn., Mora finally returned Oct. 16 on an undercard and was held to a draw by unheralded Elvin Ayala. Also on the card: 2004 U.S. Olympian Vicente Escobedo (15-1, 11 KOs) and prospect Danny Garcia (2-0, 2 KOs), a junior welterweight and finalist at this year's Olympic trials.


• Remember that proposed welterweight showdown between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and "The Contender" star Alfonso Gomez, which was planned for late March on HBO and then was pushed back to late April? Forget about it. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who handles Chavez, decided against the fight after seeing how much money he could make by putting Chavez on pay-per-view. Arum said Chavez's win against Ray Sanchez two weeks ago generated 70,000 subscriptions with almost no advertising. So rather than match Chavez with the dangerous Gomez in a fight HBO won't break the bank for, Arum is going back to PPV. He said Chavez will headline a card Feb. 9, possibly against Jose Celaya, and that he will keep Chavez busy on PPV roughly every other month before looking at 2009 as his breakout year. Arum said he would put the much-discussed Martin Castillo-Jorge Arce junior bantamweight showdown on the Feb. 9 undercard, but Castillo manager Frank Espinoza hasn't agreed to it yet. He told ESPN.com that he isn't happy about the fight being moved to a show partially controlled by Fernando Beltran, the co-promoter of Arce and Chavez. The bout originally was slated for HBO when Chavez-Gomez was being planned for March. Then it was shifted to the Feb. 16 Pavlik-Taylor II HBO PPV undercard. Espinoza wants it on the Pavlik-Taylor card because he believes the playing field is more even in Las Vegas than in Mexico, where Beltran is powerful, and because being on the the Pavlik-Taylor card will bring Castillo greater exposure.


• Super middleweight contender Allan Green (25-1, 18 KOs) will face Rubin Williams (29-2-1, 16 KOs) on Jan. 4 in Tulsa, Okla., (ESPN2), but Green would rather be facing 2004 Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward on Feb. 2. Green, of Tulsa, and promoter Tony Holden agreed to the Williams fight before an opportunity to fight Ward on HBO came up for three times the money and greater exposure. However, ESPN held Holden to his commitment, and Green will face the former title challenger instead. "Losing the fight with Ward was a major blow," Green said. "While losing that fight really hurts, I have to block it out and focus on Jan. 4, because my head has to be together when I step into the ring." Said Holden: "It's disappointing that the Ward fight offer came at the wrong time, but we would be more than happy to meet him after this fight."


• Junior featherweight titlist Steve Molitor (25-0, 10 KOs) of Canada will make his third defense since July when he faces Mexico's Ricardo Castillo (33-4, 22 KOs), the younger brother of former two-time lightweight champ Jose Luis Castillo, on Jan. 19 at Casino Rama in Orillia, Ontario. "This is just incredible to have the opportunity to defend this title once again in front of my hometown fans," Molitor said. "I cannot wait for Jan. 19 to get here, and I will not disappoint."


• The Dec. 28 season debut of ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" already has taken a hit. Heavyweight prospect Alonzo Butler (26-0-1, 19 KOs) was supposed to face his stiffest test in Dominick Guinn (28-5-1, 19 KOs), but Butler suffered an eye injury and is out. "He suffered a detached retina in the gym two weeks ago," promoter Artie Pelullo said. "He had surgery, so you're talking at least six months that he'll be out." Guinn, coming off a May loss to Eddie Chambers, will remain in the main event and face journeyman Robert Hawkins (22-10, 7 KOs), who is in a 2-7 rut, in Vancouver.



"Roy, I am telling you this, and I am serious this time. Every time I hit you, it's going to hurt. I think Roy has a bad memory when he says he's going to win in four rounds. What are you going to do when I knock you out in the second round, Roy?" -- Felix Trinidad, addressing Roy Jones at a recent news conference in San Juan to promote their showdown on Jan. 19 (HBO PPV) at New York's Madison Square Garden.



"Tito's got to go in fo'. He's doing a lot of talking now. He's got a big mouth. That's a bad sign." -- Roy Jones, responding to Felix Trinidad's prediction of a second-round knockout.