By: Sean Crose
Pernell Whitaker, one of the greatest fighters to ever lace up a pair of gloves, was killed in a motor vehicle accident on Sunday evening. He was 55 years old. Whitaker was reportedly making his way across a bustling road in Virginia City when he was struck by a vehicle. It’s reported the former Olympic and multi-divisional professional titlist was declared dead at the scene by authorities. The driver did not leave the scene, but rather remained and spoke with police. It was an untimely end for the man known as “Sweet Pea,” who is considered to have been the best defensive boxer of his time.
Back in 2017 UFC star Conor McGregor, before his much hyped novelty bout with Floyd Mayweather, dismissed boxing as only being a partial fight. He didn’t realize how right he was until it was too late. The boisterous Irishman might have been well served watching old footage of Whitaker, who consistently showed that boxing was far different than basic fighting. With his ring deftness and ability to avoid hard shots, Whitaker proved over and over again throughout his career that boxing is a highly specialized sport rather than a simple brawl.
As a young man, Whitaker engaged in well over two hundred amateur bouts, winning the vast majority of them. After earning Olympic gold as part of the famed American boxing team in 1984, the fighter moved on to earn a record of forty wins, four losses, one draw and one no contest as a professional. After winning the undisputed lightweight title, Whitaker went on to win the IBF junior welterweight title and the WBC welterweight title. Then, on September 10th, 1993, Whitaker traveled to San Antonio, Texas to face the legendary Julio Caesar Chavez at welterweight in what would be his most famous (and infamous) bout.
After Whitaker clearly got the better of Chavez during the 12 round battle, the fight was inexplicably ruled a draw. Spurring outrage, the bout remains one of the most controversial in all of boxing’s controversial history. Whitaker moved on to face other legendary foes like Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad. Whitaker lost to both men, though there remains strong sentiment that he actually bested De La Hoya. It’s also worth noting that Whitaker was well into his thirties when he faced these younger foes. Furthermore, Whitaker picked up the WBA super welterweight title in 1995, after almost ten years of boxing at the professional level.
News of Whitaker’s sudden death was met with shock throughout the fight world. Jolene Mizzone, matchmaker at Main Events, which was Whitaker’s promotional outlet, had the following to say: “I have no words, so sad, not only was he one of the best to ever do it, he was a great friend outside the ring, he was our family at Main Events not just our fighter. Not a week would go by that he didn’t call us at the office. He was the most loyal guy I knew. RIP Pernell.”