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Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker Crossing A Virginia Beach Street

Norfolk native and 1985 Olympic boxing gold medalist Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker was hit and killed at a busy and dangerous Virginia Beach, Virginia traffic intersection, according to what police told ABC local television channel 13News Now.

The accident happened just after 10 p.m. on Sunday night, July 14, 2019, at the intersection of Northampton Boulevard and Baker Road. Arriving officers found Whitaker in bad physical condition after he had been hit by a car. Whitaker died at the scene. The driver of the vehicle who struck Whitaker remained at the scene, and spoke with police. The Virginia Beach Police Department has has not identified the driver. Police have not yet stated if the driver will face charges, as the matter remains under investigation.

Family members of the traffic accident victim have posted on social media and confirmed the victim is the 55-year-old boxing legend Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker. On behalf of Real Combat Media, this reporter spent time with Whitaker and interviewed him at ringside in June 2012, when Whitaker was ringside in Atlantic City, New Jersey, at The Tropicana Hotel & Casino for Northfolk southpaw light heavyweight, who boxed to a six round majority draw behind Whitaker’s cheering, Filippone being up 59-55 on one scorecard with 9-1 Keandrae Leatherwood. Whitaker was in town for the annual New Jersey Hall of Fame meeting.

Whitaker won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics in the lightweight category.Whitaker’s professional career spanned from 1984 to 2001, where he became a four-weight world champion. In retirement, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006.

Whitaker was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and made the Hampton Roads area on the Virginia Peninsula his home.  In February 2014, Whitaker won in court and made national headlines after evicting his own mother from a home he purchased for her. Once a boxer who earned millions, Whitaker was forced to evict his own mother from the house he gave her over 30 years earlier as he needed money from selling the house to pay his bills.

Whitaker’s eviction proceedings against his mother, and the tragic end of his life were part of his fall from public grace and eventual solvency. After retirement, Whitaker was involved in numerous incidences and arrests for drug abuse, and continuous run-ins with the law. Whitaker’s final end followed his falling out and estrangement form his family five years earlier, and came to its ugly conclusion trying to cross the street.

Whitaker is survived by: his 78-year-old mother Novella Whitaker: and three sons, Devon Whitaker, Domonique Whitaker, and Dontavious Whitaker. His namesake son, 30-year-old landscaper Pernell Whitaker Jr., died in 2015. In a bizarre family coincidence before the fatality, Whitaker’s own brother was hit and injured by a car last year in Norfolk.

Following Sunday night’s accident, traffic on westbound Northampton Boulevard was shut down for several hours but it has since reopened.

Pedestrian Noel Brown and many others cross at Northampton Boulevard and Baker Road. They all say it’s a dangerous intersection. Brown said the victim and his family are in his thoughts and prayers.

“The light changes real fast,” Brown said. “As soon as I get across the street, suddenly it changed, and you have to stop in the middle and wait for the traffic to go and then you can go. I think they need to get more, a little more timing before the lights change. That time needs to be a little longer. When you go up the street, they have like the sign that says walk and you have 20 seconds to get across. One of those. They need to get one of those,” said Brown.

Whitaker fought in the ring as a professional between 1984 and 2001, compiling a record of 40-4-1 with 17 knockouts and one no-contest. Whitaker fought in an incredible 23 world title bouts, and won world titles as a brilliant lightweight, super lightweight, welterweight, and super weightweight champion. Whitaker did not win any of his last four bouts. Witaker lost his World Boxing Council World Welterweight title to the then undefeated Oscar De La Hoya in April 1997. After winning a World Boxing Association Welterweight title eliminator by 12 round decision over Andrey Pestryaev in October 1997 at Foxwoods, Whitaker’s career and life began to unravel when the victory was changed to a No-Decision after Whitaker tested positive for cocaine.

In 1999, Whitaker attempted a comeback agaisnt 33-0 Felix Trinidad and lost a 12 round decision for Trinidad’s International Boxing federation World Welterweight title. In April 2001 in the ring at Caesars Tahoe in Nevada, Whitaker’s career ended when he broke his clavicle in the fourth round during a bout with world title challenger Carlos Bojorquez.




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Robert Brizel - Head Boxing Correspondent
Robert Brizel - Head Boxing Correspondent
Robert is the Head Boxing Correspondent for Real Combat Media Boxing since 2013. Robert is also a photographer and ringside reporter for the RCM Tri State region which includes NJ, NY and PA. Robert conducts exclusive interviews, provides historical boxing articles and provides editorial ringside coverage of major boxing events. You can contact or follow Robert on Facebook and by email at robertbrizel@realcombatmedia.com.