Former Olympic gold medal winner and boxing champion Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker died Sunday night after he was struck by a car.
Whitaker, 55, was hit around 10 p.m. while crossing an intersection in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“When officers arrived on scene they located an adult male victim who had been hit by a vehicle. The victim succumbed to his injuries on the scene,” Virginia Beach Police Department spokesman L.M. Bauder said in a statement, ESPN reported. “The driver of the vehicle remained on scene with police.”
Former boxing champion Pernell Whitaker was struck and killed by a car in Virginia Beach, police say. Whitaker, 55, was an Olympic gold medalist and welterweight champion and regarded as one of the greatest defensive fighters. https://t.co/vJ9XrWvHXl
— The Associated Press (@AP) July 15, 2019
The incident is being investigated by the Virginia Beach Police Department, ESPN reported.
Whitaker is considered one of the greatest pound-for-pound boxers of all time, coming in 44th in a 2012 ranking by Bleacher Report.
On my NY public access TV show “Max on Boxing” (1989-1998), I talked Pernell Whitaker more than any other fighter; it was basically the Pernell Whitaker show. He was the pound for pound best for half a decade, and one of the 3 greatest pure boxers who ever lived. RIP Sweet Pea.
— Max Kellerman (@maxkellerman) July 15, 2019
In his professional career, which spanned from 1984 to 2001, Whitaker had a career record of 40-4-1 with 17 knockouts.
He won championships in four different weight classes — Lightweight, Light Welterweight, Welterweight and Light Middleweight — and is one of only four fighters to do so, along with Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran.
Whitaker, who is from Norfolk, Virginia, was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006.
Aside from his Hall of Fame professional career, Whitaker was a legendary amateur, winning a Gold Medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics in the Lightweight division.
Oh no, no, no… Sweet Pea was one of the greatest fighters to ever lace up gloves. Waking up to this news just has me GUTTED. #Boxing has lost one of its best and I’ve lost a friend. Loved him. No matter what he was going through, Pete had a great heart. #ripsweetpea pic.twitter.com/un90hPmIO6
— Lou DiBella (@loudibella) July 15, 2019
Devon Whitaker expressed shocked when asked about his father’s death.
“I guess he was wearing dark clothes, the road was dark and the driver didn’t see him,” the 23-year-old told The Virginian-Pilot.
He said his dad was a “cool guy,” the outlet reported.
“That’s all I can say about him,” Devon Whitaker 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.”
One of the greatest boxers of my lifetime and my good friend Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker passed away last night. During his long and successful career I never missed one of his fights. To me, he was one of the top five greatest boxers ever!
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) July 15, 2019
Whitaker battled drug addiction for much of his life. He suffered a cocaine overdose in 2002 and was convicted of cocaine possession later that year, ESPN reported.
“He had a lot of problems outside the ring and those problems probably cut his career short,” Kathy Duva, whose company Main Events promoted Whitaker throughout his career, told ESPN. “He was far from a perfect person and a pain in the ass at times, but I still loved him. He was one of the greatest boxers of all time. There’s no doubt.”
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