Pernell Whitaker, an Olympic gold medalist and four-division champion who was regarded as one of the greatest defensive fighters ever, has died after being hit by a car in Virginia.
He was 55.
Police in Virginia Beach said the former fighter was hit by a car on Sunday night. The driver of the car remained on the scene, and police said they were investigating the circumstances of the death.
“Sweet Pea” was Whitaker's nickname, and it fit perfectly. He was a master of hitting and not getting hit back, a southpaw who slipped in and out of the pocket and rarely gave an opponent an opportunity to land a clean shot.
Whitaker won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles—he was one of nine U.S. boxing champions that year—and made his pro debut on national television. He advanced quickly and was fighting for a major title by his 17th fight, a loss to Jose Luis Ramirez that he would avenge the next year.
Former heavyweight champion George Foreman wrote on Twitter that Whitaker was one of the greats in the art of boxing.
"When I first saw "Pernell Sweet Pea Whitaker" in Training Camp, it was like watching a Cat with boxing gloves," Foreman said. "Best balance I'd ever seen in a Boxer."
But in recent years Whitaker had been happy going to boxing events to meet fans and sign autographs. He was supposed to be a part of the Manny Pacquiao-Keith Thurman fight night this Saturday in Las Vegas, where he was to be honored as a boxing legend.
I am sure he still will be—with what will now be a very bittersweet tribute.
Source: ABC News
Photo Credit: Getty Images