Valero was a Venezuelan boxer with a growing profile on a seemingly inevitable track to fight Manny Pacquiao and to potentially become a superstar. He was a knockout king and won all of his first 18 fights with a first round knockdown. He had a career record of 27-0 (all by knockout) and was a 2-weight world champion when he died in 2010.
Tragically however, Valero could never escape his demons. He turned to cocaine and booze. His paranoia took over and he murdered his young wife in cold blood. Not long after being arrested, he took his own life while in prison.
In Berserk, Don Stradley recounts the story of Valero’s rise, the bumps along the way and his ultimate descent. Different versions of Valero are presented with conflicts emerging between accounts of how he treated his wife in particular. Stradley does well to separate fact from fiction and to dismiss conspiracy theories while recognising the limits of what we can really know about Valero and his relationships.
It is a short sharp captivating read and one any boxing fan will find interesting. The punchy style of the book neatly matches Valero’s own relentless fighting style. I found watching the many YouTube clips of Valero’s fights a great accompaniment to the book.
The book is published by relatively new boxing publisher Hamilcar books as part of it’s true crime imprint. I’ve been really impressed by their work – both reprinting US editions of boxing classics like Dark Trade and these new short books. I’m really looking forward to their publication in 2020 of a book by Tris Dixon on brain damage and boxing.