Edwin Valero hits so hard, he makes middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik look dainty. He's so aggressive, he makes super featherweight star Manny Pacquiao seem passive.
Power and aggression are the recipe for boxing stardom in the U.S., but Valero is virtually anonymous on the world stage. Sadly, he may be forever.
But the hardcore fans who have followed his progress on YouTube will get an opportunity to see him live on pay-per-view on Saturday when he takes on Zaid Zavaleta in Cancun, Mexico.
If you haven't seen Valero, think of a young Mike Tyson and you'll get an idea of what you're about to see.
The Venezuelan fights with a fury. Remember Tyson's famous quote about wanting to drive his opponent's nose into his brain? That's the kind of fighter Valero is.
"I just give the people what they want to see," Valero said. "They want to see guys get in there and fight like men."
Most men, though, don't fight like Valero, whose record is astonishing. He is 22-0 with 22 knockouts, including 19 in the first round.
But Valero hasn't fought in the U.S. since 2003 and may never do so again because he's under medical suspension in New York. By federal law, whenever a fighter is under suspension in one state, other states must honor it.
Valero's suspension stems from injuries suffered in a Feb. 5, 2001, motorcycle accident in which he wasn't wearing a helmet and suffered a fractured skull.
About a year later, he was cleared by doctors in Venezuela to fight and turned pro on July 9, 2002. He defeated Eduardo Hernandez by first-round knockout – the first of 18 in a row to start his career.
"I don't even like to talk about it because it doesn't matter," Valero said. "I'm healthy. I can fight. So that doesn't make any sense to talk about that."
Golden Boy Promotions signed him after his third and final fight in the U.S., when he stopped Tomas Zambrano in the first round in Irvine, Calif., on Dec. 18, 2003.
But when Golden Boy tried to put him on a card in New York in 2004, he was declined because of a failed MRI and placed on medical suspension.
That decision forced Valero into something of a boxing exile. He's traveled the world since, fighting in Japan, France, Panama, Venezuela and Argentina, taking on second-tier opposition and lesser names.
Were he able to fight in the U.S., he'd be in the mix for big-money bouts against the likes of Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, both of whom rate in the top five of the Yahoo! Sports boxing rankings. With his power and relentless style, he'd probably be one of the biggest names in the game
There's a tendency in boxing to mythologize punchers; rarely are they as good as their reputations. Valero, though, is different, insists Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya.
"He doesn't need five or six shots to take you out," De La Hoya said. "All he needs is one. He's got scary kind of power."
He'll use it on Saturday to take out Zavaleta, who is little more than a sacrificial lamb. But there are no big fights for Valero to look forward to because most of the big names at super featherweight are fighting in the U.S.
Top Rank had briefly talked of matching Pacquiao with Valero in Macau, but it's unlikely given Pacquiao's ability to generate money and Valero's lack of a profile.
Valero, 26, insists he's not bothered by his status. He says he's simply happy to be fighting.
"Those guys are on their way out anyway," Valero said of Pacquiao and Marquez. "Of course I would want to fight them, but I can't. I feel confident one day I'll fight in the U.S. and then I'll get my chance. But if I don't, OK. I am a world champion and I'll just defend my title wherever I can."
- Edwin Valero
- Manny Pacquiao