Legendary boxer Pernell Whitaker died at the age of 55 on Sunday July 13th after being struck by a vehicle while crossing the road in his home state of Virginia, USA.
Nicknamed “Sweet Pea”, Whitaker, known for his slick, defensive ability and fast hands, is widely recognised as one the most talented lightweight boxers of all time. He won 201 of his 214 amateur fights and reached the peak of his amateur career by winning the gold medal in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics with a victory over Luis Ortiz in the final.
He turned professional at the age of 20, later that same year, and had a highly successful career which lasted just over 15 years. He was a four-weight world champion, having won the world title at lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight, and light middleweight. He had 46 professional fights, winning 40 and losing four with one draw and one no contest.
After his retirement in 2001, he became a boxing trainer, training former heavyweight contender Calvin Brock, Colombian welterweight Joel Julio, and former world champion Zab Judah.
AFP reported that police said that Whittaker was pronounced dead on the scene after officers arrived following the collision at Virginia Beach, Virginia. "When officers arrived on scene they located an adult male victim who had been hit by a vehicle," the statement said. "The victim succumbed to his injuries on the scene."
Many former and current fighters have paid tribute to Whitaker on social media. Former undisputed world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson wrote on his official Twitter account, “I’m truly lost for words to hear Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker is no longer with us. He was a flawless fighter. Condolences to his family.”
His former opponent Oscar De La Hoya, now the founder of Golden Boy Promotions, also paid tribute on Twitter and called Whitaker the best opponent he ever faced. He tweeted, “It was an honour to share the ring with him. In terms of his defence and ring generalship, Pernell Whitaker was the best fighter that I ever fought. On behalf of everyone at Golden Boy, we send our prayers and condolences to his family and friends.”
Reigning WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford expressed his condolences on his Twitter account, saying, “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 them up.”
Fighters and sportsmen have paid tribute to the boxing legend. There is no doubt his talent and great fights will live long in the memory of boxing fans.