In an awful way to kick off a Monday, I regretfully to have to write this story. One of the most legendary fighters of modern times, Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker (40-4-1, 17 KOs), was killed last night after being struck by a car while crossing a Virginia Beach street. Whitaker was 55 years old.
It’s being reported that the incident took place shortly after 10 p.m. on Sunday evening at an intersection between Northampton Boulevard and Baker Road, where responding officers found Whitaker’s body after having been struck by a vehicle. Whitaker died on the scene of the accident, and while the police have not yet publicly identified the man who struck Whitaker with his vehicle, it’s being said that he stayed at the scene and spoke to local authorities.
Whitaker will always be remembered as one of the most transcendent boxing talents there ever was. For whatever he may have lacked in power, he more than made up for in sheer skill and defensive ability — often mentioned to be one of the best defensive fighters to ever live.
Over the course of Whitaker’s Hall of Fame career, which spanned from 1984 to 2001, he’s been in with the likes of Roger Mayweather, Azuma Nelson, ‘Buddy’ McGirt, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, and of course Julio Cesar Chavez who had an 87-0 professional record at the time. That’s only to name a few, though.
In 1990 Whitaker knocked out Juan Nazario in only one round to become the first undisputed lightweight champion since Roberto Duran. A couple of years later he would move up to junior welterweight where he would win another world title by outpointing Rafael Pineda. The following year Whitaker would move up again, this time to full on welterweight, where he would again win another world title by beating Buddy McGirt in 1993 to take the WBC belt.
His next fight would probably be regarded as his most legendary and controversial one, when he took on the undefeated Julio Cesar Chavez in September of 1993.
Whitaker and Chavez would battle to a majority draw on the cards, but the overwhelming feeling was that Whitaker clearly deserved to win the fight on points — so much so that when the official decision was read, even the pro-Mexican crowd erupted in a hail of boos.
In his later years Whitaker would take on boxing’s ‘Golden Boy’ in Oscar De La Hoya, dropping a unanimous decision in another debatable contest that seemed wider on the cards than it actually was in the ring.
Whitaker’s last fight came in 2001 and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006, his first year on the ballot. By the time he was finished Whitaker had won world titles in four different weight classes, became undisputed at lightweight, won lineal titles at both lightweight and welterweight, and reached the #1 pound-for-pound ranking by RING magazine from 1993-1997.
Whitaker left a huge legacy in the sport, one I certainly can’t easily do justice in writing, so I’m thinking that instead of mourning the loss of an all-time great, we celebrate his life and accomplishments instead.
What are some of your favorite memories of ‘Sweet Pea’? Share down below...