Pernell Whitaker (left) with Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather and Jeff Fenech.
Pernell Whitaker (left) with Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather and Jeff Fenech.

Boxing world mourns legend’s tragic end

Boxing champion and Olympic gold medallist Pernell Whitaker, who was regarded as one of the greatest defensive fighters ever, has died after being hit by a car in Virginia. He was 55.

Police in Virginia Beach said the former fighter was hit by a car on Sunday night.

The driver remained on the scene, and police said they were investigating the circumstances of Whitaker's death.

"Sweet Pea" Whitaker won gold at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and went on to become a champion in four weight classes in a professional careerthat spanned 17 years.

He finished with a record of 40-4-1 and was a first ballot selection into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Pernell Whitaker in New York in 1997. (Photo by: The Ring Magazine/Getty Images)
Pernell Whitaker in New York in 1997. (Photo by: The Ring Magazine/Getty Images)

But Whitaker was also known as the victim of one of the worst decisions in boxing, a draw that allowed Julio Cesar Chavez to remain unbeaten in their welterweight showdown in San Antonio in 1993.

Four years later, Whitaker was on the losing end of another difficult decision against Oscar De La Hoya in Las Vegas, a fight many ringsiders thought he had won.

Whitaker's longtime promoter Kathy Duva said they were generally agreed to be the worst decisions in boxing.

"When you see the list of greatest boxing robberies in history they were both No. 1 and No. 2 on the list," Duva said. "And every list of top 10 fighters of all time he was on, too."

BOXING LEGENDS HEARTBROKEN

His passing prompted an outpouring of tributes from the biggest names in the sport.

"I'm truly lost for words to hear Pernell 'Sweet Pea' Whitaker is no longer with us," Mike Tyson tweeted. "He was a flawless fighter. Condolences to his family."

Former heavyweight champion George Foreman wrote on Twitter that Whitaker was one of the greats in the art of boxing.

"When I first saw "Pernell Sweet Pea Whitaker" in Training Camp; it was like watching a Cat with boxing gloves," Foreman wrote. "Best balance I'd ever seen in a Boxer."

Whitaker, who was divorced with four children, battled alcohol problems throughout his adult life, Duva said.

He also served time in prison after violating his probation in 2003 on a conviction for cocaine possession. "He was this person who was only comfortable in the ring," Duva told ESPN. "He had demons, but when he was in the ring, that was when he was in control and when he was happy and when he was the very best at what he did, and he wanted to show that to everybody."

His family issued a statement saying Whitaker's death was "one of the darkest moments in our lives".

The wider boxing family was also shattered.