Donna Connor/AP Photo

Tragedy struck the boxing world on Sunday night when Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker was killed after being hit by a car in Virginia Beach.

Jason Leach

One of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the history of the sport, Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker was tragically killed Sunday night when he was struck by a car crossing an intersection in Virginia Beach. Whitaker was 55.

Whitaker rose up to fame at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles when he won the gold medal at lightweight. He turned pro later that year and won his first 15 fights before suffering a controversial split decision loss to Jose Luis Ramirez in March of 1988. He would avenge that loss in August of 1989 when he defeated Ramirez by unanimous decision.

During his 17-year pro career, Whitaker established himself as possibly the greatest defensive fighter in the history of the sport. He was a defensive wizard as his elusiveness and superb defensive skills baffled and frustrated opponents. Even the quickest of opponents had trouble landing shots on Whitaker.

Whitaker would go on to win titles in four different divisions (lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight, and super welterweight). He would defeat the likes of Azumah Nelson, James Buddy McGirt (twice), Roger Mayweather, Greg Haugen, and Jorge Paez.

But the fight that Whitaker is remembered best for is his with Julio Cesar Chavez in September of 1993 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Everyone in attendance and those watching on television saw Whitaker clearly outbox the then-undefeated Chavez, winning at least nine of the 12 rounds. But the judges somehow scored the fight a majority draw (115-113 Whitaker, 115-115, 115-115).

To this day the Whitaker-Chavez fight is seen as one of the worst decisions in boxing history.

Another disputed decision that went in Whitaker’s favor came in April of 1997 when he lost his WBC and lineal welterweight title to Oscar De La Hoya by unanimous decision (111-115, 110-116, 110-116).

Whitaker would continue to fight on but began to show his age. He suffered his first clear defeat at the hands of Felix Trinidad by unanimous decision in February of 1999, and then lost by fourth-round TKO at the hands of journeyman Carlos Bojorquez when he broke his clavicle. Following the fight, he would announce his retirement.

Whitaker’s professional record was (40-4-1, 17 KOs) and the legend was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007.

When news broke of Whitaker’s untimely passing, boxers, promoters, and fans took to social media to offer their condolences to Whitaker’s family, and to praise the exceptional fighter. Whitaker’s Olympic teammate and friend, Evander Holyfield, took to social media to offer up a tribute to Whitaker. The former four-time heavyweight champion of the world had nothing but praise for “Sweet Pea.”

The International Boxing Hall of Fame announced that it would fly its flags at half-staff in Whitaker’s memory.

Jason's first love was football while growing up in northern New Jersey. For the past three years, he has covered the New York Giants, as well as several boxing events along the East Coast.