Sunday night was a sad evening in the boxing world as American Olympic gold medalist Pernell Whitaker died after being hit by a vehicle while crossing the street in Virginia Beach, VA. Whitaker was 55 years of age. Authorities are still investigating the accident, however in a statement made by his son Devon published by www.people.com, Whitaker was wearing dark clothes, it was late at night and the driver of the vehicle did not see him.
Nicknamed “Sweet Pea”, Whitaker won a gold medal for the United States in the men’s lightweight division at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. In the gold medal bout, Whitaker beat Luis Ortiz of Puerto Rico. Chun Chil-sung of South Korea and Martin Ndongo-Ebanga of Cameroon each won the bronze medal.
Whitaker was one of nine American boxers to win a gold medal at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He was joined by Paul Gonzales of Pecos, TX (men’s light flyweight), Steve McCrory of Detroit, MI (flyweight), Meldrick Taylor of Philadelphia, PA (featherweight), Jerry Page of Columbus, OH (light welterweight), Mark Breland of Brooklyn, NY (welterweight), Frank Tate of Detroit, MI (light middleweight), Henry Tillman of Los Angeles, CA (heavyweight) and Tyrell Biggs of Philadelphia, PA (heavyweight).
Also as an amateur boxer, Whitaker won a gold medal at the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas and a silver medal at the 1982 World Championships in Munich. As a professional, Whitaker had an outstanding record of 40 wins and four losses. Of his 40 wins, 23 came by decision and 17 came by knockout.
On March 12, 1988, Whitaker lost to Jose Luis Ramirez of Mexico in the WBC lightweight championship in Levallois-Perret, France. Sweet Pea then captured the IBF lightweight title by beating Greg Haugen of Auburn, WA on February 18, 1989 in Hampton, VA. On August 20, 1989, Whitaker beat Ramirez in a rematch in Norfolk, VA and became the WBC lightweight champion. Then on August 11, 1990, Whitaker became the WBA lightweight champion as he beat Juan Nazario of Puerto Rico in Stateline, NV. In 1992, Whitaker made the switch from lightweight to welterweight and soon won the WBA, WBC and IBF titles there as well.