Cermeno Venezuela Caracas Chavez Maduro Latin America South America
Boxing promoter Don King and Venezuelan boxer Antonio Cermeno smile for photographers during a press conference in Caracas Reuters

Ex-boxing world champion Antonio Cermeno has been shot and killed in Venezuela after being kidnapped, according to the country's officials.

Cermeno, 44, was discovered with gunshot wounds by the side of the Caucagua-Higuerote highway in the state of Miranda after he had been abducted from the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, police have confirmed.

The high-profile murder of Cermeno, given the nickname El Coloso (or The Colossus) during his boxing career, comes at a time when Venezuela finds itself in the midst of anti-government unrest over corruption, record inflation and the country's murder rate – one of the highest in the world.

The boxer and members of his family had been kidnapped in the La Urbina neighbourhood in Caracas but his relatives managed to escape from the abductors while they stopped to refuel their car.

Cermeno won bantamweight and featherweight world titles in the 1990s and retired from boxing in 2006 with a record of 45-7.

In similar circumstances, former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear and her husband were killed last month by armed robbers as they were travelling by car to Caracas.

Recent developments in the political unrest in Venezuela have seen the coutnry's opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, arrested after handing himself over to police at an anti-government protest.