Boxing Great Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker Hit by Car, Dead at 55

By Tristen Critchfield Jul 15, 2019


Boxing legend Pernell Whitaker was killed after being hit by a car in Virginia Beach, Va., on Sunday night. Whitaker was 55 years old.

Whitaker was reportedly hit by a vehicle at 10 p.m. local time on Sunday while walking at an intersection. The incident is still under investigation, according to the Virginia Beach Police Department.

"When officers arrived on scene they located an adult male victim who had been hit by a vehicle. The victim succumbed to his injuries on the scene," Virginia Beach Police Department spokesman L.M. Bauder said in a statement. "The driver of the vehicle remained on scene with police."

Whitaker, who ended his professional boxing career with a 40-4-1 record with one no contest, was widely regarded as one of the greatest defensive boxers of all time. “Sweet Pea” won an Olympic gold medal at lightweight in 1984 and won world titles in four different weight classes – lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight.

Whitaker’s career mark might have been even better were it not for contentious decision losses to Jose Luis Ramirez and Oscar De La Hoya. He also battled Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. to a majority draw in March 1993 that ranks among the most controversial verdicts in boxing history. Whitaker landed on the Sports Illustrated cover with the headline “Robbed!” shortly thereafter.

“Sweet Pea” had other troubles late in his career, testing positive for cocaine following a win over Andrey Pestryaev (The victory was later overturned to a no contest). Whitaker’s problems continued into retirement, as he overdosed on cocaine and later served a prison sentence for possession. Many believed that Whitaker’s addiction issues ended his boxing career prematurely.

Despite his personal troubles, Whittaker was beloved by many in the boxing community. His youngest son, Devon Whitaker, called his dad “a cool guy.”

"That's all I can say about him," Devon told the Virginian-Pilot. "I can't really say how I'm feeling because I'm feeling shocked. I'm still trying to process everything that's going on. But he was a cool guy."

More recently, Whitaker dabbled as a trainer, working with the likes of Zab Judah, Calvin Brock and Joel Julio. He was expected to make an appearance at the MGM Grand this weekend as part of the Manny Pacquiao vs. Keith Thurman bout. Whitaker is survived by three children he had with ex-wife Rovanda Anthony and one from another relationship.

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