Folk can argue about his politics all they like – the liberator/dictator argument pertaining to South America has raged all my lifetime, but I find Edwin Valero’s fandom of Venezuelan president for life, Hugo Chávez, kind of enduring. as a fan of bad sporting tattoos, and having been introduced to the bestselling ‘Chavecito‘ (‘Little Chávez’) toy when Edwin waved a Chávez doll after a victory over Honmo nearly three years ago, I was in awe of his decision to really go to town and get some Hugo ink early last year. On the arm? Not visible enough.
Mike Tyson* may expressed interest in a Chávez piece to sit alongside his Che portrait, but even he, with his questionable thought process when it comes to going under the needle, would have baulked at a full Venezuela flag in red, blue and yellow, ‘Venezuela de Verdad‘ (‘True Venezuela’) in script above it, and, requiring explanation, or possibly guessable, given the imagery behind it, his friend and idol’s mugshot across the chest. It’s safe to say that Edwin Valero really likes Hugo Chávez.
It’s pretty bad. The colours look felt-tipped in. Technically, it would be the worst tattoo in boxing history, were it not for the likes of Cotto, Mads Larsen or Scotland’s Ricky Burns festooning themselves in regrettable tribal crap. That’s not the point. This this piece sends a powerful rebel message that may, or may not have caused USA visa issues (though that could be his out-the-ring antics catching up with him too). That’s something interesting.
By marking himself for life, Edwin assures himself of hero patriot status back home; a real-life superhero, and embodiment of the ‘new’ Venezuela. HBO have come down on advertisers using fighters as walking billboards lately, but you can’t miss the message Edwin’s carrying. It’s a serious act of commitment. Valero’s far from the first Venezuelan fighter of note, and critics have accused Hugo of killing the country’s rich fighting heritage. To counteract this, he’s reportedly closing some golf courses for being too bourgeois to develop what he perceives the national sport to be. Valero’s convincing victory over DeMarco at the weekend proved there’s more to him than mere power, which certainly doesn’t stop haters from wanting him beaten – again, that pro-commie tattoo baits the opposition in bombastic style. A mooted light-welterweight bout with Timothy Bradley could be incredible, and the pre-fight debate should be fascinating.
South American fighters representing Cuba have been well treated by Castro. Being pro-coup can get you a mansion, as Félix Savón and Teófilo Stevenson discovered. according to ‘Sports Illustrated,’ Panama’s Roberto Duran was asked to speak to Cuba’s leader in the late ’70s and managed to blow it. I heard he lived there just pre-retirement, but the phonecall didn’t go too well,
“The fighter had just had a call from General Omar Torrijos, the President of Panama, who was visiting Cuba. Fidel Castro wanted very much to meet Duran. “I told him to go ahead,” Eleta said, “but I warned him, as I always do, not to get involved in politics. I told him to be careful of what he said.”
Pledging to be discreet, Duran flew to Havana, where all went smoothly—at first. And then Castro mentioned Teofilo Stevenson, the Cuban two-time Olympic heavyweight champion. “What would you think of a fight between Stevenson and Muhammad Ali for the world title?” Castro asked.
The question didn’t sound political to Duran. “Don’t be crazy,” he said. ” Ali would kill him.”
“Adios” Fidel said.”
I don’t pretend to know much on tattoo history. I’ll leave that to my friend Mr. Nick Schonberger. It’s still entertaining to see boxing working hard to reinforce itself as a sport after so many controversies, and tattooing pushed as a real artform, only for all the amassed intentions to come undone when the two mix. Riddick had his kids on his flesh, there’s no end of traditional glove motives discreetly applied, as well as the obligatory religious iconography blandly executed. Nigel Benn’s peculiar star back piece is worthy of mention too. Now no fight is complete without some ill-advised ink on display – Diego Corrales has plenty of bad work, Winky Wright’s ‘Winky’ piece is funny, Manny’s seem well-intentioned but atrocious, Barrera’s rose is atrocious, Kermit Cintrón’s dog image on his back is goofy.
The successes arise when fighters really go for broke – Archak ‘Shark Attack’ Termeliksetian’s Shark-nipple interface? Johnny Tapia’s ‘Mi Vida Loca’ Catholic chest piece? Louis Collazo’s entire torso? Incredible – it even seems to include the Kraken from ‘Clash of the Titans’ as part of a religious good/evil scene. Kessler’s tribal touches border on a failure, yet the cartoonish viking reaching around his back give him the fearsome look that was presumably the intention, but it pales next to the previous trio. For sheer attention-seeking, Edwin still takes the belt for most madcap tattoo in the sport – no mean feat.
*MMA fighter Paulo Filho has a rendition of Mike on his arm. It looks very little like Kid Dynamite, more like some racist propaganda from the Jim Crow era. However, Paulo offsets this with the ill pitbull million dollar bill stomach piece he rocked post-rehab.