International Boxing Hall of Fame

Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker


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Pernell Whitaker
Real name Pernell Whitaker
Nickname(s) Sweet Pea
Rated at Welterweight
Nationality American
Birth date January 2, 1964 (1964-01-02) (age 44)
Birth place Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
Stance Southpaw
Boxing record
Total fights 46
Wins 40
Wins by KO 17
Losses 4
Draws 1
No contests 1
Medal record
Competitor for Flag of the United States United States
Men�s Boxing
Olympic Games
Gold Los Angeles 1984 Lightweight
World Amateur Championships
Silver Munich 1982 Lightweight

Pernell Whitaker (born January 2, 1964), nicknamed "Sweet Pea," is a retired professional boxer, who is considered among the greatest of all-time. A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Whitaker was the lightweight silver medalist at the 1982 World Championships, followed by the gold medal at the 1983 Pan American Games and the 1984 Olympics, and then embarked on a pro career in which he became world champion in four different weight divisions. Whitaker was known for his outstanding defensive skills, which helped garner him consideration as one of boxing's top pound-for-pound fighters during his prime.

Amateur Boxing career

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 �ngel 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 Olympic Gold 1984.


In just his eleventh and twelfth pro bouts, Whitaker beat solid journeyman Alfredo Layne on December 20, 1986, and former WBA Super Featherweight world champion 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 Jose Luis Ramirez for the WBC Lightweight Championship in Levallois, France. He suffered his first pro defeat when the judges awarded a controversial split decision in Ramirez's favor.

Whitaker trudged on, decisioning Greg Haugen for the IBF lightweight title on February 18, 1989, but not before becoming the first boxer to knock Haugen down, dropping him in the sixth round. He then added the vacant WBC belt by avenging his loss to Ramirez on August 20.

Now a champion, Whitaker proceeded to dominate boxing's middle divisions over the first half of the 1990s. In 1990, he defended his lightweight title against future champion Freddie Pendleton and super featherweight champion Azumah Nelson of Ghana. On August 11, 1990, he knocked out Juan Nazario in one round to add the WBA title and become the first undisputed lightweight champion since Roberto Duran. His highlight of 1991 was beating Jorge Paez.

In 1992, he began his ascent in weight, winning the IBF junior welterweight title from Colombian puncher Rafael Pineda on July 18.

On March 6, 1993, he decisioned James (Buddy) McGirt to become the linear and WBC welterweight champion.

Whitaker was gaining momentum, from boxing experts and fans, as the pound for pound best boxer in the world, though some felt that he needed win against Mexican legend Julio C�sar Ch�vez. The two met in a welterweight superfight on September 10, 1993 in San Antonio, Texas. In the eyes of many of the spectators, Whitaker outboxed Ch�vez in a career-defining performance. The judges, not that impressed by his performance, saw an even bout. As in his first fight with Ramirez, Whitaker was not awarded a decision victory, this time having to settle for a draw.

Whitaker continued on to dominate for the next few years, defending his welterweight belt in a rematch against McGirt on October 1, 1994.

For good measure, in his next fight on March 4, 1995, Whitaker added Julio C�sar V�squez's WBA junior middleweight title to his collection but remained at welterweight to successfully defend his WBC belt against Scotland's Gary Jacobs on August 26, 1995.

Despite his success, Whitaker's skills were in gradual decline, evidenced by lackluster defenses against Wilfredo Rivera and Diosbelys Hurtado. He met a bigger, younger Oscar de la Hoya on April 12, 1997, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Whitaker 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, and despite receiving an official knockdown de la Hoya won by a disputed unanimous decision.

Following this defeat, Whitaker began an unfortunate decline, personally and professionally. His win over Andrei Pestriaev was declared a no-contest after a drug test revealed he had used cocaine, which is a banned substance.

In 1999, Whitaker suffered his first sound defeat against the much bigger, much fresher F�lix Trinidad, gamely taking the Puerto Rican the distance. His last fight came on April 27, 2001, against journeyman Carlos Bojorquez. Whitaker broke his clavicle in round four and was forced to retire, finishing with an official pro record of 40-4-1 (17 knockouts). Whitaker has since been in and out of prison for cocaine possession and is rumored to have squandered the millions of dollars he earned in fight purses.

In 2002, Ring Magazine ranked Whitaker as the 10th greatest fighter of the last 80 years.

On December 7, 2006, Whitaker was inducted in the International Boxing Hall of Fame along with contemporaries Roberto Duran and Ricardo Lopez. They were all elected in their first year of eligibility. While Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker's future seems uncertain, his record in the ring speaks for itself.

Personal life

Pernell is married to Rovanda Whitaker (currently separated) and they have three sons, Dominique, Pernell Whitaker Junior, and Dantavious.

 After Boxing

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 have 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.

His first fighter, Dorin Spivey, has several matches scheduled for 2006. Recently he's been training heralded young prospect Joel Julio.

Pernell Whitaker is also the trainer for heavyweight Calvin Brock who, as recently as November 2006, fought for the IBF and IBO titles against Wladimir Klitschko.

Preceded by
Mike Tyson
Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year
Succeeded by
Julio C�sar Ch�vez
Preceded by
Greg Haugen
IBF Lightweight Champion
18 February 1989�1992
Vacated Title
Succeeded by
Freddie Pendleton
Preceded by
Julio C�sar Ch�vez
WBC Lightweight Champion
20 August 1989�1992
Vacated Title
Succeeded by
Miguel Angel Gonzalez
Preceded by
Juan Nazario
WBA Lightweight Champion
11 August 1990�1992
Vacated Title
Succeeded by
Joey Gamache
Preceded by
Rafael Pineda
IBF Light Welterweight boxing champion
18 July 1992�1993
Vacated Title
Succeeded by
Charles Murray
Preceded by
Buddy McGirt
WBC Welterweight Champion
6 March 1993�12 April 1997
Succeeded by
Oscar de la Hoya
Preceded by
Julio C�sar V�squez
WBA Light Middleweight boxing champion
4 March 1995�1995
Vacated Title
Succeeded by
Carl Daniels