Had he been alive, had he not been the victim of a horrific car accident that claimed his life in July 2019, the greatest and greatest of all time, Pernell Whitaker would be celebrating his 59th birthday today. “Sweet Pea” was, for many of the best defensive boxers of our time, a very special boxer, if not the greatest of all time, and a proficient practitioner of Sweet Science.
Whittaker told everyone who saw him display his magic, whether hardcore fight fan or casual observer, how much brains and skill he had in the sport often referred to by critics. It was great publicity for the sport in that it made us realize what was needed…as a ‘barbarian’ and a ‘savage’.
When Whitaker did his work, it was like watching a genius create a beautiful work of art. This is when he was blinded, deceived, and defeated his opponents once and for all. A 1984 Olympic gold-medal-winning amateur, the Virginia Beach southpaw dominated the world at 4+ weights. And let’s take a look at some of the great fighters from the good that Whitaker not only defeated but dominated:
Roger Mayweather wins NABF title bout.
Jose Luis Ramirez, in a rematch, this after being blatantly robbed in his first fight for the WBC lightweight title.
Greg Haugen won the IBF lightweight title.
Juan Nazario, this first round KO shows how “Sweet Pea” cracks and dodges every blow.
Rafael Pineda won the IBF belt at £140.
James “Buddy” McGirt wins WBC title at age 147.
Julio Cesar Vazquez wins WBA title at £154.
And Julio Cesar Chavez, forget what the judges did that day in San Antonio in 1993.
In the end, his reflexes wore off enough that big hitters Oscar de la Hoya and Felix Trinidad gave Whittaker a decisive win. Whitaker has endured Trinidad, who has shown immense heart in sometimes hellish battles and unleashes murderous punches.
Aside from his last match against Carlos Bojorquez in April 2001 when he broke his collarbone and was forced to withdraw, Whitaker was only truly beaten by the best Trinidad. . This is 35-year-old Whittaker.
Some experts say Floyd Mayweather is the greatest defensive fighter of all time, others say Willie Pep. Some say Nicolino Roche, others point to the 1960s version of Muhammad Ali.
But for millions of fans, admirers and critics, Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker was the best ever when it came to making opponents miss. Whitaker did it with style, panache, and deceptively effortless grace.
I miss Parnell so much.