Venezuela boxer Edwin Valero found hanged in cell

Edwin Valero

Edwin Valero was a household name in Venezuela

World champion Venezuelan boxer Edwin Valero has been found dead in a police cell after being detained for killing his wife.

Police chief Wilmer Flores said Valero, 28, had tied his clothes to a cell bar and hanged himself.

Valero was arrested after police officers found the body of his 24-year-old wife Jennifer Viera in a hotel in the Venezuelan city of Valencia. He was a former two-weight world champion and unbeaten in 27 fights.

Mr Flores said Valero was found hanging by another inmate, who alerted the authorities. The police chief said the boxer had shown signs of life but that officers were unable to revive him.

Nicknamed ‘The Inca’, Valero was a big star in his native country and had an image of President Hugo Chavez tattooed on his chest, along with the Venezuelan flag.

He had already been arrested at the end of March for suspected aggression towards his wife and had subsequently spent time at a psychiatric clinic. He was also accused of assaulting his mother and sister in 2007, although he denied the allegation.

Valero, a former WBA super-featherweight and WBC lightweight champion, shot to fame when he won his first 18 professional fights by first-round knockouts, setting a record that has since been eclipsed by Tyrone Brunson.

He last fought in February, when he stopped Antonio DeMarco in Monterrey, Mexico, but recently gave up his WBC lightweight belt with a view to stepping up a division. Valero was involved in a motorcycle accident in 2001 that caused a cerebral hemorrhage, and because most jurisdictions refuse to license a fighter who has sustained a brain injury, he was unable to fight in the United States.

As a result, Valero fought mainly in Japan and Latin America, and his final record read 27 fights, 27 wins, 27 by knockout.

Valero was also charged with drink-driving last May, which was the primary reason he was denied a US visa. He accused the US government of discrimination, saying his application was not approved because of his sympathy for Chavez, a fierce critic of the US.

He appeared as a special guest at televised events hosted by Chavez and was lionised by Chavez supporters as a national hero, although some critics said he avoided punishment for past indiscretions because of his close links to the government.

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