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Pernell Whitaker (born January 2, 1964 in Norfolk, Virginia), nicknamed "Sweet Pea," is a professional boxing trainer and retired American professional boxer. Whitaker was the lightweight silver medalist at the 1982 World Championships, followed by the gold medalist at the 1983 Pan American Games and the 1984 Olympics. Whitaker then embarked on a pro career in which he became world champion in four different weight divisions. During his career, he fought world champions such as Julio César Chávez, Oscar De La Hoya and Félix Trinidad. For his achievements, he was named the 1989 Fighter of the year by Ring Magazine.

Whitaker was a "southpaw" (left hand dominant) boxer, known for his outstanding defensive skills and for being a strong counterpuncher. He was not an over-powering hitter on offense but applied a steady attack while, at the same time, being extremely slippery and difficult to hit with a solid blow.

Whitaker had an extensive amateur boxing career, having started at the age of nine. He had 214 amateur fights, winning 201, 91 of them by knockouts, though he says that he has had up to 500 amateur fights. He lost to two-time Olympic Gold medalist Ángel Herrera Vera at the final of the World Championships 1982 but beat him four times, notably in the final of the Pan American Games 1983 in Caracas. He crowned his amateur career with an Olympic Gold Medal in 1984.

In just his eleventh and twelfth pro bouts, Whitaker beat Alfredo Layne on December 20, 1986 and former WBA Super Featherweight title holder Roger Mayweather on March 28, 1987. Whitaker won both bouts before hometown crowds at the Norfolk Scope, less than a mile from where he lived as a child in a Norfolk housing project. Whitaker would fight nine times in the Scope arena during his career.

On March 12, 1988, he challenged José Luis Ramírez for the WBC Lightweight title in Levallois, France. He suffered his first pro defeat when the judges awarded a split decision to Ramirez. The decision was highly controversial, with most feeling that Whitaker had won the fight with something to spare. In his 1999 edition of the 'World Encyclopedia of Boxing,' Harry Mullan stated that the decision in this bout was "generally considered to be a disgrace.".

Whitaker trudged on, winning a decision over Greg Haugen for the IBF Lightweight title on February 18, 1989, becoming the first boxer to knock Haugen down by dropping him in the sixth round. He then added the vacant WBC belt by avenging his loss to Ramirez on August 20.

He met Oscar De La Hoya on April 12, 1997, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Whitaker, defending his WBC championship and the mythical status as the best fighter "pound for pound", succeeded in making De La Hoya look bad through his crafty defense, but he was unable to mount a sufficient offense to convince the judges. Although Whitaker was awarded an official knockdown in the 9th round and outlanded De La Hoya in overall punches & connect percentage (according to CompuBox stats), De La Hoya won by a disputed unanimous decision. At the end of the fight, the judges' scores were 111-115, 110-116, 110-116. The fight was a lot closer than what the final scorecards showed, and there were many boxing analysts & sportswriters at ringside who felt that Whitaker actually won the fight. It was another controversial decision against Whitaker, but it wasn't seen as a blatant robbery like the Ramirez or Chavez fights.

De La Hoya himself didn't seem too pleased with his own performance and had hinted at a possible rematch to prove that he could do better. However, his promoter at that time, Bob Arum, declined the notion.

Whitaker's next fight was against Andrey Pestryaev in a WBA title elimination fight, with the winner being named the #1 contender for the WBA Welterweight title, held at the time by Ike Quartey. Whitaker originally won by decision, but it was nullified & changed to a no decision after Whitaker failed a post-fight drug test.

On February 20, 1999, Whitaker suffered his first sound defeat against the much bigger, much fresher Félix Trinidad, gamely taking the Puerto Rican the distance in an attempt to win Trinidad's IBF welterweight title. The fight began with both boxers displaying aggressive styles, which included excessive pushing. In the following rounds, both boxers used their jabs most of the time, with Trinidad gaining an advantage when Whitaker attempted to attack inside, eventually scoring a knockdown in round two. In the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds the fighters exchanged combinations. Later in the fight, both boxers fell to the canvas in what were ruled as "accidental slips." On the seventh round, Whitaker displayed more offense, trading power punches with Trinidad, but the champion retained control in the fight's tempo during the eight, ninth and tenth rounds. In the last round, Whitaker, with a badly swollen right eye, displayed a purely defensive stance, avoiding his opponent throughout the round while Trinidad continued on the offensive until the fight concluded. The judges gave the champion scores of 117–111, 118–109 and 118–109.

His last fight came on April 27, 2001, against journeyman Carlos Bojorquez. Whitaker, the former lightweight, entered the ring at 155 pounds. He broke his clavicle in round four and was forced to retire; at the time of the stoppage Whitaker was trailing in all the judges' scorecards by 28-29. Following this fight, Whitaker officially announced his retirement. He finished his professional career with an official record of 40-4-1 (17 knockouts).

As a youngster, Whitaker was known to friends and family as "Pete" and when he began to emerge as a top amateur, fans in his hometown of Norfolk used to serenade him with chants of "Sweet Pete." This was misinterpreted by a local sportswriter as "Sweet Pea." When this erroneous report came out in the local newspaper, the new nickname stuck.

As of December 2005, Whitaker has taken on the role as trainer in his home state of Virginia. While the decline of speed and agility pushed him into retirement, his knowledge of the ring and components have led him to seek out up-and-coming boxers and train them to fight the way he did.

Once a celebrated millionaire boxer and 1985 Olympic gold medalist, Whitaker is now struggling to pay his bills and needed to sell the house which he gave to his mother nearly 30 years ago, according to his lawyer. His fall from grace and solvency involved numerous incidences of drug abuse and a history of arrests and run-ins with police. But Whitaker's final falling out with his family came to an ugly end in a Virginia court on Wednesday.

Whitaker, 50, bought the two-story brick home near the Botanical Garden in Norfolk, Va., for his mother in 1984 when he was still flush from his many wins in the ring.

“He’s limited to what he can make training other boxers,” Gould said. “It’s significantly diminished over the years and he’s not able to maintain this $400,000 house for his mother and siblings to live in.”.

"He’s not happy that it was necessary to go to court," Gould said. “But he now has two mortgages on the house and the alternative was if he didn’t sell, it was going to go to foreclosure.”.

A grandson of Mrs. Whitaker, former NFL player Ronyell Whitaker, has also come forward to offer his assistance to his grandmother and make sure she is cared for.


Pernell Whitaker. (2014). Retrieved on April 27, 2014, from

ABC News. (2014). Ex. Retrieved on April 27, 2014, from

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