Champ targets violence against women

Updated: April 20, 2010, 9:32 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Moved by the tragedy in Venezuela, where former two-division titleholder Edwin Valero was arrested in the stabbing death of his wife Sunday and then committed suicide in his jail cell Monday, newly crowned middleweight champion Sergio Martinez wants to do something about violence against women.

Martinez, who claimed the middleweight title by outpointing Kelly Pavlik for the upset Saturday night in Atlantic City, N.J., said Tuesday that he will begin a campaign within the boxing community to reinforce the idea that fighting is meant to take place inside the ring, not at home.

"I love and respect women. Violence against women is simply unacceptable," Martinez said. "The great number of cases, too often involving athletes, requires action. I have always confided in my mother and consider myself to be a momma's boy. Women must be respected, not abused."

Valero, who was suspected of repeatedly battering his 24-year-old wife, Jennifer Carolina Viera, allegedly stabbed her to death in a hotel room in their native Venezuela before reportedly confessing to the crime and then hanging himself in his jail cell.

Valero, 28, also struggled with drugs, alcohol and depression. According to Venezuelan news reports that he denied, he was arrested on charges that he had hit his mother and a sister in September.

"Sergio is going to petition the different sanctioning bodies and the different boxing dignitaries to make them know he is serious in this effort," said Sampson Lewkowicz, Martinez's adviser. "We can create a foundation that makes a world of difference to women everywhere."

Promoter Lou DiBella said he will enlist the Boxing Promoters Association to help in the cause.

"I am proud of Sergio for attempting to use his newfound fame to help address a terrible problem, which must be eradicated," DiBella said.

Martinez, who is from Argentina but living in Oxnard, Calif., said besides creating a foundation and raising money to help the cause, he hopes his newfound status as middleweight world champion will give him a platform to help spread his message.

"My middleweight championship gives me a voice," he said. "I will use this voice in an effort to protect women from senseless violence and abuse."

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