After Pitalua, Valero Wants Manny Pacquiao

BY Michael Woods ON March 18, 2009
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A standout pro boxer is cut from different cloth than you or I. They are risk takers, and have a tolerance to pain, mental and physical, which allows them to keep training when they are mentally drained or suffering from an injury which would sideline a “regular Joe.”

Edwin Valero is most certainly cut from the sturdier brand of cloth. The former WBC junior lightweight champion, who fights Antonio Pitalua on April 4 in Austin, Texas on a Golden Boy PPV card (”Lightweight Lightning”), many people say, shouldn’t have anything more to do with boxing than watching it from the comfort and safety of his sofa.

The 27-year-old Venezuelan, you see, was in a nasty motorcyle accident, back in 2001, before he turned pro. He borrowed a friend's cycle, and was on his way to a workout at 2 PM. He was stopped at a stop light, and car came up behind him, and smashed into the rear of the cycle. Valero was thrown off, and hit the concrete. He was not wearing a helmet, but he was conscious and didn't think he was severely injured. He spent three days in the hospital, and  there doctors found a blood clot. (He also says that past reports that he suffered a fractured skull were incorrect.) The fighter was offered the chance to break the clot with meds, or surgery. He chose surgery, to drain the blood vessels. The surgery was a success, Valero healed up, went back to training, and turned pro on July 9, 2002.

In 24 outings, he has not been beat. All 24 of his wins have been by KO, though the competition cannot be termed top tier. Valero is licensed to fight in the US only in Texas, so he’s been fighting mostly in Venezuela and Japan. He did appear twice in the US, in 2003, on cards in California, and nothing showed up in his pre-fight physical that precluded him from obtaining a license.

But then a physical before a planned 2003 fight in NY showed a spot on his brain scan. Valero had suffered a blood clot in the cycle accident. But he had surgery to correct the damage, and had been cleared to box by doctors in California, and many other states and countries. New York said no, no boxing for you, and other commissions in the States have honored their call That is, until Texas doctors in early 2008 looked at his brainscans, and pronounced him fit to fight. He was granted a license and it was thought that Nevada would follow suit, so Valero could tangle with Manny Pacquiao at the end of 2008. That didn’t happen, though, as Manny found a more compelling and lucrative gig, against Oscar De La Hoya.

Valero has been accumulating rust on the sidelines, though he did trade some leather with De La Hoya during Oscar’s camp in preparation for Manny. Valero even boasted that it was he who inflicted a nick on Oscar’s eye, and called Oscar a liar when it was stated that Golden Boy heir apparent Victor Ortiz did the damage. Valero’s last scrap came in June 2008, when he took out Takehiro Shamada in the seventh round in Japan.

He said he is not looking past Pitalua (46-0, 40 KOs), a Colombian bomber (of course, right?) who has feasted on low-risk setup opponents since turning pro in 1992. Now 39, Pitalua managed to pass his step-up test, taking a KO6 win over Jose Armando Santa Cruz (3-3 in his last six) last September. Valero won’t keep one eye out for a bigger name, bigger money clash in the near future (against Pacquiao, or Juan Manuel Marquez, who is likely to fight the Pacquiao/Hatton winner), he insisted on a conference call for reporters this week.

“I know Antonio Pitalua,” Valero said.  “I saw him in his last fight in Monterey, Mexico against Santa Cruz and I can tell you that he's a very aggressive, very strong fighter. He's a warrior with a lot of will to win. You can tell he can punch; he has a pretty heavy punch. I've never said I disrespect him; on the contrary, he's a good fighter. But I know of my capacity. I know what I can do, and I know what Pitalua brings. And he's a fighter that on the night of the fight he's going to fall. He's too slow for me. I'm too fast, I'm too strong for him, and I want to fight the best. He's a good fighter, but I'm up for bigger and better things. Unfortunately I can't help make his dreams come true, I'm not going to allow it. If Marquez moves up in division vacating the other belts, it's of no interest to me. I'd light to fight the best in this division, I'd like for Marquez to stay in the lightweight division as I consider him a 130 pounder naturally. So if he goes up to 140 it would really not be to fight the best. I'd like him to fight me and once he fights me he can move on to fight at a different division and go up in weight, but at this point I'd like to fight the best fighters out there.”

A clash with Pacquiao, at some point, seems a natural, as both are Top Rank fighters. If Valero gets licensed in California, as manager Jose Castillo is working on the issue now, his stature will rise, and he might be able to entice Manny into a bout. As of now, he thinks Pacquiao might be a little scared of his power. "Yes," Valero told TSS in a Thursday phoner. "Pacquiao has fought guys like Marquez, and David Diaz. They don't have the punch I have. The people in the Phillipines are waiting for Manny to fight me."

Manager Castillo also spoke with TSS. "I think Pacquiao is running away from Valero a little bit," he said. "You can look at economics too, but if Pacquiao had stayed at 135, Edwin would have been his mandatory. Why wouldn't he stay there? I think it is the best weight for him. But I think if the money is right for Manny, it is a fight he will take." Castillo said he hopes medical material he shows to the California commission will result in Valero getting a license. After California, Valero would shoot for a license in Nevada, Castillo said. If and when Valero gets past Pitalua, the manager said, a fight with Juan Diaz would make sense, though he has not yet engaged in even preliminary talks with Team Diaz.

The graybeard Colombian promised that he’ll be looking to bang on April 4, when he and Valero vie for the vacated WBC lightweight title. “Yes, I know Edwin was there at my last fight with Santa Cruz. I want everybody to know that I am a very aggressive fighter. I love to exchange toe-to-toe, that's my style. And I know I've heard rumors out there that Edwin Valero is challenging Juan Manual Marquez and stepping me aside but you know what, that's okay - that's fine because on April 4th the world - the Hispanics, the whole world are going to know who Antonio Pitalua is. He's not going to stop my dream of becoming a world champion.”

Valero then shed more light on the sturdiness of his brain, and made the case why he should be licensed everywhere.

“Every fighter that steps in the ring runs a risk of being injured or being hurt,” he said. “And I am in no more risk than any other fighter. I want to clarify, it was an accident that I had many years ago on a motorcycle. It was very minor it wasn't what it's played out to be. (NOTE: See what I mean about boxers being different? A fractured skull is very minor???) It was outside of my brain, it wasn't that they took my brain out, washed it and put it back in, and it was nothing like that. It was a vein that erupted and they took care of it. I've been to doctors all over the world. I've been to Argentina, I've been to Panama, I've been to Venezuela.  I have seen all the best doctors in America. I actually saw the doctor that performed the surgery on Marco Antonio Barrera, Doctor Madrazo, and they've all told me the same that I'm clear to fight, that I'm okay, that I don't run any more risks than any other fighter.”

(Barrera had brain surgery in 1997, and metal plates were inserted in his head to correct a genetic disorder not related to boxing. A small group of blood vessels were dilated. He began having headaches in 1995, visited a neurologist in Mexico City and had surgery during which tiny titanium plates were inserted to protect the area. People have basically stopped talking about the plates in his head, though the issue reappeared on radar screens when Joe Mesi suffered brain bleeding following his 2004 fight with Vassiliy Jirov, and the Buffalo fighter fought to regain his boxing license.)

Valero also said the president of the Philippines, Gloria Macapgal-Arroyo, examined him and pronounced him fit, though I believe he meant that she arranged a doctor visit with a specialist. “So I want to repeat that I'm in no more danger than any other fighter, to suffer any more injuries or anything because of what I have,” Valero said.

Jesus Chavez will also appear on the card, as he takes on Michael Katsidis.

David Itskowitch of Golden Boy touched on the meaningfulness of the promotion. “Our thought was to have a tournament, but though Edwin is obviously signed with another promoter (Top Rank) so, his participation and further bouts couldn't be guaranteed. Maybe you could refer to it as kind of a de facto tournament. Maybe the guys that win will fight each other but, you know, we couldn't guarantee it because we can't speak for Edwin. So I think it's also just kind of a way to shake things up in the lightweight division with so much talent in it, have some cream rise to the top, and move on to the bigger fight.”

Perhaps TSS U can help clarify the 135 pound class, moving forward, and suggest the matchups that make sense. Should Marquez stick around, and fight the Valero-Pitalua winner? Where does Chavez slot if the 36-year-old Texan takes down the 28-year-old Aussie? And if Katsidis wins, who does he next target?

Weigh in, TSS U!

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