By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, 27, committed suicide by hanging himself in his jail cell on April 19, 2017, at Sousa-Baranowski Correctional Center in Lancaster, Massachusetts, only five days after being acquitted of double murder. Hernandez, faced with life imprisonment after being previously convicted of murder, chose to take his life rather than spend eternity in incarceration.
The death of Hernandez has a common denominator in the death of the late Edwin Valero, who also committed suicide in his jail cell on April 19. Valero’s death happened on April 19, 2010, seven years earlier. The 27-0 southpaw with 27 straight knockouts undefeated World Boxing Council World Lightweight champion hanged himself in his jail cell in Caracas, Venezuela, after being arrested in the fatal stabbing of his wife.
Valero, 28, suffered from alcohol and cocaine addiction, and had struggled with medical depression. Valero had previously been suspected of assaulting his wife, Jennifier.
It remains a tragedy when athletes take their own life, however the taking of steroids and illegal drugs to enhance performance can damage the brain, as well as the factor of blows to the head. Boxers get hit in the head, while football players bang each other’s heads full impact commonly. With Hernandez and Valero, we cannot tell what exactly did the damage. Granted, drugs and alcohol did not help in Valero’s case. We know in the Hernandez case his fiancée Shayanna Jenkins testified he was intoxicated before he committed murder, and Hernandez had an uncle, Robert Valentine, who died from alcohol when he crashed his scooter while not wearing a helmet in August 2013.
It all does not add up to a good picture. It does speak for the need for professional athletic organizations and sources to offer and provide better services of counseling, and alcohol and drug rehabilitation and recovery. Valero and Hernandez are just two athletes of many who could have and should have been reached, but weren’t. It is sad, but a valuable reminder of life’s lessons that alcohol and drugs destroy the best of athletes. Valero was probably the best all-around boxer in the world, and Hernandez had a 40 million contract with the New England Patriots (the largest ever given to a tight end), all for nothing. Both men had their whole life ahead of them full of promise, and the primes of achievement.