A legendary four-division champion and Olympic gold-medal winning boxer, Pernell Whitaker died Sunday night after being hit by a vehicle in Virginia Beach, Virginia, according to the Virginia Beach Police Department. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Whitaker was 55.
Whitaker, who boxed for 17 years and held titles at lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight and light middleweight, made a name for himself by defeating Luis Ortiz to win the gold medal for the United States at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. “Sweet Pea” famously started boxing at age 9 and had an extensive amateur career prior to compiling a stellar professional record of 40-4-1 with 17 knockouts.
Known as one of the best defensive fighters of all-time, the southpaw was widely considered the pound-for-pound best boxer in the world during the mid-1990s as he racked up a 40-1-1 mark before losing his welterweight titles to rising star Oscar De La Hoya on April 12, 1997. Whitaker would never officially win another fight and retired four years later.
Whitaker, a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame who was named Fighter of the Year by Ring Magazine in 1989 and still holds the longest unified lightweight championship reign with six defenses, began training fighters in his retirement, most famously heavyweight title contender Calvin Brock and former undisputed welterweight champion Zab Judah.
Celebrities from around sports, including boxing, spent Monday paying tribute to Whitaker on social media.
One of the greatest boxers of my lifetime and my good friend Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker passed away last night. During his long and successful career I never missed one of his fights. To me, he was one of the top five greatest boxers ever!
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) July 15, 2019
Wow I can’t believe this!!! Somebody that I’ve always loved to watch and wanted to meet so bad and now it will never happen. SMH RIP SWEET PEA you will for ever be one of the greatest to ever lace em up.
— Terence Crawford (@terencecrawford) July 15, 2019
Oh no, no, no… Sweet Pea was one of the greatest fighters to ever lace up gloves. Waking up to this news just has me GUTTED. #Boxing has lost one of its best and I’ve lost a friend. Loved him. No matter what he was going through, Pete had a great heart. #ripsweetpea pic.twitter.com/un90hPmIO6
— Lou DiBella (@loudibella) July 15, 2019
Rest easy, Sweet pea. 💜
— Gervonta Davis (@Gervontaa) July 15, 2019
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