Boxing legend ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker dead at 55

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Former Olympic boxing gold medallist and four-weight world champion Pernell Whitaker has died after a traffic accident in Virginia, police confirmed on Monday.

The 55-year-old was killed after being struck by a vehicle at an intersection in Virginia Beach last Sunday, police said in a statement.

“When officers arrived on scene they located an adult male victim who had been hit by a vehicle,” the statement said.

“The victim succumbed to his injuries on the scene.”

Police said the driver of the vehicle involved in the accident remained on the scene and was helping with inquiries.

Whitaker was regarded as one of the most gifted fighters of his generation, a skilful technician who enjoyed a successful professional career after winning gold as a lightweight at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Pernell Whitaker (R) and Oscar De La Hoya exchange punches during their WBC Welterweight Championship fight at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on April 12, 1997. – AP

He fought 46 times as a professional, winning 40 with 17 knockouts. He suffered four defeats, one draw and a no contest before his retirement in 2001.

He won world titles at lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight and light middleweight.

Whitaker, affectionately known as ‘Sweet Pea’, was named fighter of the year by Ring magazine in 1989 and was regarded as the best pound for pound boxer in the world during the early to mid 1990s.

His career highlights included a controversial battle with Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez. The two fought a bruising battle which went the distance in San Antonio in September 1993.

Many pundits believed Whitaker had won the fight but it was scored a majority draw.

Whitaker would also go on to lose another hard-fought battle against Oscar De La Hoya in 1997, when he put his WBC welterweight title on the line.