People both in and out of the boxing world is mourning the loss of Pernell “Sweetpea” Whitaker, who was killed on Sunday in Virginia Beach, Virginia, after he was hit by a vehicle. Whitaker was 55 years old.
The Virginian-Pilot reports the boxing legend was walking at the intersection of Northampton Boulevard and Baker Road when he was struck at 10:04 p.m and pronounced dead at the scene. His 23-year-old son Devon Whitaker spoke about the incident and has a theory about how it happened.
“I guess he was wearing dark clothes, the road was dark and the driver didn’t see him,” he said. “[My dad was a] cool guy. That’s all I can say about him. I can’t really say how I’m feeling because I’m feeling shocked. I’m still trying to process everything that’s going on. But he was a cool guy.”
ESPN calls Whitaker — who’s a native of the nearby Virginia city of Norfolk — possibly the best defensive fighter in history.
He’s also won titles in four different weight classes: lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight and light middleweight. Plus, he’s won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics.
When Whitaker retired in 2001 his record stood at 40-4-1 with 17 knockouts. Moreover, he was considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in his heyday and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006.
Roy Jones Jr. spoke to TMZ about the type of fighter Whitaker was after he heard the news.
“When they say the last of the Mohicans … That’s what he really is,” said Jones. “Pernell Whitaker didn’t care who it was, when it was, if they was supposed to be good, he wanted him. He didn’t care who he’d fight, he didn’t care where he was fighting at, he really didn’t care what weight he was fighting at.”
Floyd Mayweather — who took a picture with Whitaker one day before he was killed — also acknowledged the accident.
“R I P champ, one of the best fighters to ever do it,” he wrote on Monday.
Magic Johnson also sent a statement.
“Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker was in the class of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard as one of the most entertaining fighters in my lifetime. I’m praying for his family,” he tweeted on Monday.
Reportedly, the driver of the vehicle was not arrested, and police don’t believe drugs or alcohol were involved.