"EL INCA": Edwin Valero Film THIS Friday
EXCLUSIVE: Champions Scheduled to Appear!
By Michele Chong
The life of fallen champion Edwin Valero is explored in the new film "EL INCA." Based on the tragic true life story of the Venezuelan superstar arrested for killing his wife in April 2010. After the death of Jennifer Carolina Viera, the national hero was found dead in his jail cell. Reports came forth that the embattled boxer had committed suicide by hanging at age 28.
Now these heartbreaking tragedies are seen on the big screen in "EL INCA." I had a chance to see the movie (which has been banned TWICE in Venezuela) at last week's showing at the Landmark Theatre in Los Angeles. After this "Wrap" screening, there was a riveting Q&A with Director/Screenwriter/Executive Producer Ignacio Castillo Cottin and Executive Producer Nathalie Sar-Shalom (Pa'Los Panas Producciones). The filmmakers elaborated more about putting together the pieces of Valero's career and twisted, tortured personal life.
I spoke with Ignacio and Nathalie after the event and had the opportunity to talk boxing and ask them more about the film. They mentioned to me they were planning a Hollywood premiere on December 1.
Ignacio had previously made a trip out to California to meet with those in the sport as he prepped his film. He said that the boxing community was welcome to join Friday's presentation so yesterday I began to reach out to local prizefighters to see if they'd like to be special guests at this red-carpet affair.
The "EL INCA" team has been extremely gracious in extending this invite to a KO group of fighters and that are all very honored to attend this film screening. Scheduled to attend are pro champions/boxers/Olympians including Antonio DeMarco (the last fighter to face Edwin Valero), Josesito "Riverside Rocky" Lopez (who was Valero's sparring partner), trainer Mario "Yuca" Morales (Valero's trainer), Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios, David Benavidez, Jose Benavidez, Danny Roman, Wayne McCullough, Paul Banke, Isaac Zarate, Sindy Amador, and Zack Padilla.
Other noted guests are the World Boxing Council's (WBC) Jose "Pepe" Sulaiman Jr., WBC Senior Executive Director Nancy Rodriguez, California Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee Steve Harpst (trainer and award-winning sculptor), beauty queen Analizia Lopez (Ms. California 2017, Ms. Texas 2016, Miss City of Angels 2014, Ms. International World Mexico 2014), boxing trainer Eddie Gonzalez, West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame Director Colleen Kelly (daughter of famed USC sports announcer), recording artist/stylist Wy Mac (daughter of champ/Olympian Wayne McCullough) and more. A personal shout out to mi amiga Nancy Rodriguez for bringing Brandon Rios, Team Benavidez and Yuca Morales to Friday's bash.
This screening, Q&A and reception will take place at the historic Egyptian Theatre in the heart of Hollywood (built in 1922). This movie is the official Venezuelan entry for the 90th Academy Awards and Friday's function is presented by APERTURA Showcase and American Cinematheque.
"The only fight he lost was the one against himself..." is the tag line of this film. As a campeón, Valero was feared in the ring with his string of knockout wins. He was aggressive and wild as he charged forth while dismantling each and every opponent that stood in his way.
For boxing aficionados like me, you will remember that Edwin was poised to square off against Filipino phenom Manny Pacquiao in what surely would've been a fire fight for the ages. But fate intervened and the two punchers would never meet inside the ropes.
"EL INCA" covers the Pac-Man territory as well as engaging in plenty of action scenes that will please the boxing fans. There are several familiar faces portrayed onscreen including Antonio DeMarco (who is traveling from Mexico to attend this star-studded gala). And in an homage to his fellow fighter, Venezuelan champion Jorge Linares' WBC belt is the one borrowed by the film crew.
The film runs 128 minutes and I enjoyed watching it. As harsh as some of the scenes are to witness (Valero's alcohol and drug abuse, physical abuse to his wife) these facts have all been played out in the media. And Director Ignacio Castillo Cottin chooses to tell this as a "love story" between the doomed pair.
"In my research I discovered a very complex human being that kept me tied to his story," filmmaker Cottin stated.
Actor Alexander Leterni does a bang-up job of playing the beloved (and controversial) Latin American southpaw. "Dinamita" was a devastating KO artist who claimed 27 victories ALL by knockout. Leterni shows us various aspects of the tortured soul who could be fierce, paranoid, vulnerable, romantic and careless. The movie does a good job at showing the circumstances leading up to the tragic ending.
The lightweight champ couldn't face or fight his demons. Was it the motorcycle accident that caused the downfall? Was it the drug abuse that drove him mad? Did his life of petty crime make him think he was invincible? We will never know. The answers died when Merida's Edwin Valero took his last breath–forever silenced. He left behind two children in his wake; and his golden legacy was forever tarnished.
And now those in Southern California have a chance to view this Oscar-contention film. All of the boxers I've invited told me how excited they are in seeing this drama with the director, actors, producers from the movie as well as sitting amongst their fellow fighters.
Josesito Lopez is one who got to know Valero back in the day. The two were sparring partners and Jose remembers him vividly.
The WBC champ is known for breaking the jaw of Victor Ortiz and has fought the likes of Canelo Alvarez, Marcos Maidana, Jessie Vargas, Andre Berto, Mike Arnaoutis and more. Earlier in his professional career, Lopez stepped in to spar Valero at a gym in Orange County. He remembers it well.
"I sparred Valero for a training camp," Jose tells me. "We sparred three days a week for a month."
What does he remember most about the power puncher?
"He was really good; he was really fast," Josesito recalls. "I saw him knock out every sparring partner!"
And like all the other world champs in attendance Lopez is looking forward to seeing this film.
"I'm intrigued with the movie," the "Riverside Rocky" nods. "I've heard a lot of different stories about him. Friday night will be fun with everyone."
Yes, it will be a fun night honoring "EL INCA" and the good, bad and ugly sides of one Edwin Valero.
I met him once in Las Vegas and he was polite and friendly to me during our exchange. But through boxing circles, I heard many, many outrageous anecdotes about Valero. One can suspect they are all true? His wild escapades are now forever a thing of the past. What he was in the ring was invincible, a beast full of fury and extreme strength. And what of his personal life? That is what "EL INCA" sets out to accomplish. It's definitely worth a watch.
If you would like to attend this special screening:
Photos by Michele Chong/Poster courtesy of EL INCA