Remembering ‘Sweet Pea’ Pernell Whitaker

Remembering ‘Sweet Pea’ Pernell Whitaker

By Simon Graham

In 1984 the Olympic Games in Los Angeles USA gave birth to a future Hall of Fame boxer, a fighter that would achieve Pound for Pound greatness and go on to be a 4-weight world champion.

Pernell Whitaker had an illustrious amatuer career with a record of 214 fights winning 201 with 91 coming by way of knockout, his crowning glory was that Olympic win over Louis Ortiz.

Whitaker turned pro in 1984 and after only 16 fights challenged WBC lightweight title holder Jose Luis Ramirez, in a hotly disputed points loss. Ringside observers and top boxing analysts had Whitaker the clear winner, many felt that he was clearly robbed so that an all Mexican unification bout could take place between Ramirez and Julio Cesar Chavez.

In 1989 Whitaker captured the IBF lightweight title after just 18 fights. Later that same year he would exact his revenge on Ramirez retaining his IBF title and winning the now vacant WBC strap on a unanimous point win.

Fighting out of a southpaw stance Whitaker was a masterful boxer, considered to be the best defensive boxer of his era he could quickly turn his defensive style into deadly offensive counter attacks racking up career record of 40 wins with 17 knockouts from 46 contests.

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During the first half of the 90’s Whitaker would dominate the middle divisions, but first he would become the undisputed lightweight champion destroying Juan Nazario in one round to add the WBA belt to his collection thus becoming the first undisputed lightweight champion since the great Roberto Durán.

World domination continued through the 90’s with Whitaker stepping up to welterweight, he successfully won the IBF and WBA title belts, however to be recognised as a pound for pound great, one man stood in his way Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez.

The Fight’ as it was known took place at the Alamo dome, San Antonio, Texas 1993, Whitaker boxed a superb fight neutralising any attempts from Chavez to maintain an offensive attack, silencing a partisan Mexican crowd. Chavez was out-boxed, outclassed and made to look very ordinary by the sublime defensive counterattacking Whitaker.

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However, he would find himself once again robbed of an out right victory, the fight being declared a draw.

Undeterred Whitaker pushed on adding to his resume capturing world titles at super-lightweight and super-welterweight beating big names like James McGirt, Julio Cesar Vasquez and Wilfredo Rivera.

The latter part of Whitaker’s career saw only notable loses to Felix Trinidad and another controversial loss this time to Oscar De La Hoya.

In 2001, Whitaker retired but stayed in boxing, coaching up and coming fighters.

The Ring Magazine ranked Pernell Whitaker tenth in their list of “The 100 Greatest Fighters of the last 80 Years” and in 2006, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame at the first time of asking.

The boxing world has united to pay tribute to ‘Sweet Pea’ Pernell Whitaker who sadly passed away on Sunday night.

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