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1984 Olympic Boxing Champ Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker Dies In Tragic Accident

By Todd Kortemeier | July 15, 2019, 11:18 a.m. (ET)

Pernell Whitaker stands atop the men’s lightweight boxing podium at the Olympic Games Los Angeles 1984 on Aug. 11, 1984 in Los Angeles.


Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker, a boxing Hall of Famer who won the gold medal at the Olympic Games Los Angeles 1984, has died at 55.

Whitaker was struck by a vehicle at an intersection in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Sunday evening, and pronounced dead on the scene. An investigation is still ongoing.

Whitaker’s legendary boxing career began as an amateur, when he won a silver medal at the 1982 world championships and a gold medal at the 1983 Pan American Games prior to his Olympic triumph. At those Games in Los Angeles, Whitaker, a lightweight, won four unanimous decisions en route to the final, where he defeated Luis Ortiz of Puerto Rico.

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After compiling a stellar amateur record of 201-14, Whitaker turned pro, and became one of the best pound-for-pound boxers of the 1980s and 90s. He won world titles in three divisions, and was named Fighter of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1989.

One of the most famous moments in Whitaker’s career came in September 1993 when he was involved in a controversial decision against Julio Cesar Chavez. While many believed Whitaker to be the winner, the match was scored a draw, landing the fight on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline, “Robbed!”

Whitaker retired in 2001 with a pro record of 40-4-1, including 17 wins by knockout. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006.

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.