Boxing legend Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker died Sunday at 55 after he was struck by a car in Virginia Beach, WTKR reports.
Whitaker, an Olympic gold medal winner who went on to win the world championship in four different weight classes, died from his injuries at the scene, according to the outlet.
The driver remained on the scene after the accident and police are investigating the incident.
Whitaker won gold medals at the 1983 Pan American Games and the 1984 Olympics, per Sports Reference.
Whitaker finished his career in 2001 with a 40-4-1 record, having won the WBC Lightweight, Light welterweight, Welterweight, and Light middleweight titles.
His most memorable bouts came against the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Greg Haugen, Jose Luis Ramirez, and Julio Casar Chavez.
He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006.
In 2002, Ring Magazine named him the No. 10 greatest boxer of the last 80 years.
Whitaker is survived by his five children, according to TMZ Sports.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Pernell Whitaker Died After Being Struck by a Car
Whitaker, a Virginia native, was killed Sunday night while crossing an intersection in Virginia Beach, according to WTVR.
“When officers arrived on scene they located an adult male victim who had been hit by a vehicle,” a Virginia Beach Police spokesperson told the outlet. “[Whitaker] succumbed to his injuries on the scene. The driver of the vehicle remained on scene with police.”
The crash is under investigation.
“The investigation is still ongoing,” police spokesperson Linda Kuehn told USA Today. “However, it does not appear that drugs/alcohol or speed were factors in the crash.”
Whitaker’s son Devon told The Virginian-Pilot that he believes his father “was wearing dark clothes, the road was dark and the driver didn’t see him.”
He told the outlet that his father was a “cool guy.”
“That all I can say about him,” he told the newspaper. “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.”
Tributes poured in after news of Whitaker’s death.
“So sorry to hear of the passing of a defensive genius and one of the all time greats, Pernell Whittaker,” wrote former world champion Frank Bruno. “May he rest in peace. My thoughts are with his family & close ones. #sweetpea.”
“The best lightweight I ever saw passed away today,” wrote ESPN’s Max Kellerman. “Yes, that includes Roberto Duran, Floyd Mayweather, Ike Williams, and anyone else you want to mention. RIP Pernell Whitaker.”
2. Whitaker Won Gold Medals at The Olympics & Pan American Games
After breaking out as an amateur fighter at Booker T. Washington high school in Virginia, Whitaker quickly gained international acclaim as a teenager.
Whitaker won the silver medal at the 1982 boxing World Championships in Munich before winning the gold at the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas, according to WKTR.
He went on to win Olympic gold as a lightweight fighter at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
3. Whitaker Won World Championships in 4 Different Weight Classes
Six years after winning Olympic gold, Whitaker won his first world title in the lightweight division.
Whitaker rose in weight, winning four different WBC weight classes, including Lightweight, Light welterweight, Welterweight and Light middleweight.
Whitaker’s most high-profile bouts came against Oscar De La Hoya and Julio Cesar Chavez. Whitaker lost to De La Hoya and fought Chavez to a draw, though many people belive he was “robbed” in both bouts because “he clearly won the fights,” TMZ Sports reported.
4. After Retirement, Whitaker Became a Trainer & Mentor to Young Boxers
Whitaker was considered among the sport’s elite both during his ascent through the ranks and after his retirement in 2001.
Whitaker went 40-4-1 over his career, with 17 wins coming by knockout, according to Sports Reference. He also won 201 of his 214 recorded amateur bouts, winning 91 by knockout.
He was ranked the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world by Ring Magazine from 1993 to 1997. The publication named him Fighter of the Year in 1989.
Ring Magazine named him the tenth-best boxer of the last 80 years shortly after his retirement in 2002.
Whitaker was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006.
Whitaker spent much of his post-retirement helping to inspire local boxers in Virginia, WTKR reported, and helped promote bouts.
In 2005, Whitaker became a boxing trainer, training the likes of Calvin Brock and Joel Julio, and Zab Judah, according to Eurosport.
Judah is a former junior welterweight and welterweight champion.
5. Whitaker Had Drug & Financial Problems After Retirement
Whitaker married Rovanda Anthony in 1985 but the couple later divorced, The Mirror reported. He leaves behind his children Dominique, Dantavious, Devon, and Tiara. His son Pernell Jr. died in 2015 at age 31 after a battle with cancer.
Whitaker was convicted of cocaine possession in 2002 after he violated the terms of a previous sentence by overdosing on cocaine, according to The Washington Post.
In 2014, Whitaker evicted his 73-year-old mother from a house he bought for her shortly after turning pro, ABC News reported. According to the report, back taxes were owed on the house and Whitaker, no longer making pro boxing money, was forced to sell the home to satisfy the tax debt, according to his lawyers.
Speaking outside a courthouse after a ruling to evict his mother, Whitaker told WVEC that it was a “beautiful moment.”
“He’ll be a son forever until death do us part, but he is putting a rip through the family,” his sister, Zelda Brown, said at the time.