Pernell Whitaker, boxing legend who held multiple titles through his career, dies at 55

The boxing legend leaves behind a legacy that recognizes him as one of the greatest all-time defensive fighters

Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker, a boxing Hall of Famer who established himself as one of the best defensive fighters in the sport, died Sunday after he was struck by a car, according to reports.

Whitaker was crossing a bridge in Virginia Beach, Va., when he was struck, Yahoo! Sports, reports. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

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A gold medalist on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, Whitaker went on to win a plethora of world championships throughout his career. Those include, lightweight, super lightweight, welterweight, super welterweight. He was also a lineal champion in lightweight and welterweight.

At his prime, Whitaker was said to be almost impossible to hit as he fought out of a crouch position and swiveled like a corkscrew to avoid punches. Throughout his career, he defeated some of the greats like Buddy McGirt, Azumah Nelson and Roger Mayweather. In 1997, at the age of 33, he locked horns in the ring with 24-year-old Oscar De La Hoya. Though De La Hoya was declared the winner, Whitaker believed he was cheated later saying, “I was robbed. What happened to me tonight was what happened to me before.”

Whitaker also had a few controversies in his career, including a September 1993 bout with Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. for the lineal welterweight title. According to Yahoo!, Whitaker seemed to have badly outboxed Chavez, but two of three judges called it a draw. Five years prior to this incident, Whitaker outboxed Jose Luis Ramirez in France, but dropped a split decision. He went on to defeat Ramirez in 1989. In 2002, Whitaker was convicted of cocaine possession, and had battled abuse of the substance, including an overdose.

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His promoter Kathy Duva remembered the late boxer and acknowledged that his shortcomings did not take away from who he was.

“He was an original and will be remembered as one of the most talented boxers of all-time,” Duva said. “ While he was far from a perfect human being, he was pretty close to a perfect fighter. In the ring was where he was most happy and in control. I will choose to remember him in the pocket, making his opponent miss and letting the world know that nobody could touch him. I love him very much, in spite of and because of his flaws. I’m going to miss him very much.”

Whitaker was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006 during his first year of eligibility.

He leaves behind four children and was predeceased by his son Pernell Jr., who died in 2015 after a battle with cancer.