By Keith Idec
Pernell Whitaker, widely considered one of the best boxers in the history of the sport, died Sunday night from injuries suffered when he was hit by a car in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Whitaker was 55.
According to a story posted Monday morning to the Virginian-Pilot’s website, Whitaker was struck near the intersection of Northhampton Boulevard and Baker Road in Virginia Beach. The call came to Virginia Beach Police at 10:04 p.m. ET.
Whitaker was pronounced dead at the site of the accident. The unidentified driver remained at the scene.
Whitaker, a four-division champion who was known for his masterful defense and technical brilliance, was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006, as soon as the Norfolk native was eligible.
At 20, he won a gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Nicknamed “Sweet Pea,” Whitaker signed with New Jersey-based Main Events and won his first world title in February 1989, when Whitaker out-pointed Greg Haugen to win the IBF lightweight championship.
The smooth southpaw added the WBC 135-pound championship six months later, when he defeated Jose Luis Ramirez by unanimous decision in their rematch. Ramirez dealt Whitaker his first professional defeat in March 1988, a debatable, 12-round split decision in what was Whitaker’s first world title fight.
By the early 1990s, Whitaker had gained recognition as arguably boxing’s best, pound for pound.
Whitaker went on to beat Azumah Nelson and James “Buddy” McGirt twice. He became a champion at junior welterweight and welterweight, the division within which he lost a controversial unanimous decision to Oscar De La Hoya in April 1997 and a wider unanimous decision to Felix Trinidad in February 1999.
Whitaker also captured a world title at 154 pounds in his lone fight in that division.
Whitaker perhaps is most remembered as a professional for his dubious draw with Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez in September 1993. Whitaker was commonly considered the winner over a then-undefeated Chavez in their 12-round WBC lightweight title bout, but it was scored a draw at Alamodome in San Antonio.
The cover of the following week’s Sports Illustrated featured a photo from the fight, above the headline, “Robbed!”
Whitaker retired following a fourth-round, technical-knockout loss to Carlos Bojorquez in April 2001. He amassed a record of 40-4-1, including 17 knockouts and one no-contest, during his 16-year pro career.
Whitaker trained fighters at times once he retired.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.