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Boxer found dead in cell after killing wife

A day after his arrest on suspicion of murdering his wife, the Venezuelan boxing champion Edwin Valero was found hanging in his jail cell early yesterday morning.

Mr Valero's death, at the age of 28, marked an ignominious and tragic end to the life of one of Venezuela's most potent folk heroes. The boxer, who had won every one of his 27 professional fights, had images of President Hugo Chavez and the national flag tattooed on his chest.

A former WBA super-featherweight champion and WBC lightweight champion, Valero had a troubled relationship with the authorities – and with alcohol. He was accused of domestic violence in March after his wife, Jennifer Viera, checked into hospital with broken ribs and a punctured lung.

He avoided a prison sentence after Ms Viera claimed that she had fallen on the stairs. A restraining order was issued, which the boxer allegedly violated repeatedly.

As the fighter dealt with the allegations of marital violence and entered treatment for alcohol abuse, he found himself listed as "champion in recess" by the World Boxing Council.

Valero was found by another inmate at about 1.30am at the jail in Valencia, 90 miles west of the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. Police chief Wilmer Flores said he had hanged himself from using his own clothes, which he had tied to bars on his cell window.

There had been signs of life when he was first found, but the boxer was later declared dead. People across Venezuela had already been dazed by television images of Valero being escorted to the jail on Sunday after police found the body of Ms Viera, who was 24, at the InterContinental Hotel in Valencia.

She had suffered multiple stab wounds. According to some reports, the boxer had told staff at the hotel that he had killed his wife.

Valero had suffered a brain haemorrhage after a motorcycle accident in 2001, and under rules relating to past head injuries was barred from fighting in the United States. He pursued his career in Latin America and Japan, and appeared at political rallies in Venezuela alongside Mr Chavez.

Valero secured himself a place in boxing lore by winning his first 18 professional fights with first-round knock-outs, a record only recently overtaken by Tyrone Brunson of Philadelphia.