By VINCENT DAVIS
Special to the AmNews
This week, the boxing world and all of sports mourn the untimely passing of Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker, the former world champion dominant during the 1980s and 1990s, recognized as one of the greatest boxers of all time.
Whitaker, 55, was hit and killed by a car while crossing the street at an intersection around 10 p.m. Sunday night, July 15, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The driver of the vehicle remained there until police and paramedics arrived. Whitaker died where the incident occurred just hours after taking a photo with Floyd Mayweather at an event that the two had attended.
Known as “Sweet Pea,” Whitaker, from Norfolk, Virginia, was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006 in his first year of eligibility. He won world titles in four weight classes: junior welterweight, welterweight, junior middleweight and lightweight.
“He wasn’t an overall knockout puncher, but he was hard to hit,” said Tony Page, New York sports radio talk show host and former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. “He was elusive. A great defensive fighter. He was up there with Willie Pepp and Wilfredo Benitez.”
Whitaker, a southpaw, left handed, had a 40-4-1 record; 17 KOs. His style, his ability to maneuver his head and his body confounded opponents.
According to Page, Whitaker only admitted to losing one of those four fights, his second to last against Felix Trinidad in February 1999. His loss to Julio César Chávez in September 1993 was “an absolute robbery,” stated Paige: “Even the Mexican press admitted that. I scored that fight 117-112, Whitaker.”
Whitaker’s loss to Carlos Bojorquez in April 2001, his last, was due to a broken clavicle, forcing him to throw in the title. He also announced his retirement.
Whitaker, born Jan. 2, 1964, had been working as a boxing trainer. He won his first championship in his 11th pro fight in 1986 at the age of 22 after winning a silver medal in the lightweight division in 1982 followed by a gold medal in the 1983 Pan-American Games and one in the 1984 Olympics.