- The Washington Times - Monday, July 15, 2019

Hall of Fame boxer and Norfolk, Virginia, native Pernell Whitaker died Sunday after being hit by a car in Virginia Beach. He was 55.

Whitaker was struck near the intersection of Northampton Boulevard and Baker Road around 10 p.m. The man who struck Whitaker stayed at the scene and is cooperating with police, the Virginia Beach Police Department said in a statement.

Whitaker was one of boxing’s most decorated fighters. After winning a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics, Whitaker turned pro — beginning a 17-year career that ended with a 40-4-1 (17 knockouts) record. Whitaker, who won titles in four different weight classes, earned the nickname “Sweet Pea” for his craftiness inside the ring. Known for his all-time great defense, Whitaker reigned as boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighter during the mid-‘90s.

The Ring magazine, “the Bible of boxing,” named Whitaker its Fighter of the Year in 1989 and later, in 2002, ranked him No. 10 on its list of the “100 Greatest Fighters in the Last 80 Years.”

Whitaker’s most famous fight happened in 1993, when he took on then-undefeated Mexican star Julio Cesar Chavez at the Alamodome in San Antonio for the World Boxing Council (WBC) welterweight title. For 12 rounds, the 5-foot-6 southpaw tamed the ultra-aggressive Chavez with a series of jabs, counterpunches, body feints and elite-level footwork.

But when the scorecards were announced, the bout was announced a draw — prompting outrage for a fight many felt Whitaker had clearly won. In the fight’s aftermath, Sports Illustrated put an image of Whitaker punching Chavez on its cover with the headline “Robbed!”

Whitaker won titles at lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight and light middleweight. Beyond the Chavez fight, he appeared in other notable bouts against Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad.

In a statement, De La Hoya, who beat Whitaker in 1997, said he was “deeply saddened” by his rival’s passing.

“It was an honor to share the ring with him. In terms of his defense and ring generalship, Pernell Whitaker was the best fighter that I ever fought,” said De La Hoya, who is now a promoter. “On behalf of everyone at Golden Boy (Promotions), we send our prayers and condolences to his family and friends.”

Whitaker was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006, five years after retiring. Whitaker remained involved in boxing as a trainer.

Outside the ring, he battled with substance issues. He tested positive for cocaine later in his career in 1999, survived a cocaine overdose in 2001 and was arrested for possession of the drug in 2002.

Whitaker’s youngest son, Devon, told The Virginian-Pilot that his father was wearing dark clothes at the time of the accident and the driver didn’t see him. He also described him as a “cool guy.”

“That’s all I can say about him,” Devon Whitaker, 23, said. “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.”

Whitaker is survived by four of his five children. A son, Pernell Jr., died in 2015 after battling cancer.

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