American boxing legend, Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker died at the age of 55 Sunday after being struck by a car in Virginia Beach. Whitaker was a legendary boxer who multiple titles in several different weight classes.
Whitaker, who won gold medals at the 1983 Pan American Games and the 1984 Olympics, turned pro in 1984 and went on to cement himself as an American boxing legend.
During his professional career, he had 40 wins, 17 knockouts, four losses and one draw, per CNN. Whitaker won titles in the lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight and light middleweight divisions. He was also regarded as one of the best defensive boxers of all time.
Whitaker was recognized by boxing publication Ring Magazine as Fighter of the Year in 1989 and was ranked as one of the top ten boxers in the past 80 years by the publication.
Whitaker was survived by his five children.
Here’s what you need to know about Whitaker’s family:
1. In 1985, Whitaker Married His Wife in a Boxing Ring
Shortly after turning pro, Whitaker married Rovanda Anthony in 1985. Although Anthony said she always wanted to have a church wedding she told the Associated Press that the boxing ring was the best place.
″I always wanted a church wedding,″ Anthony said, ″but since we can’t seem to keep Pete out of the boxing ring, I guess this is the best place.″
Whitaker had been scheduled to fight on a nationally televised card with four other former Olympians – Mark Breland, Tyrell Biggs, Meldrick Taylor and Evander Holyfield on that day in the mid-1980s, but the boxing legend had other plans.
″I’m going to get married in there,″ Whitaker said. The ceremony took place after five eigh-round matches ended.
2. Whitaker’s Son Domonique Took to Facebook to Announce His Father’s Death
Whitaker and Anthony, who are now divorced, had four children – Domonique, the late Pernell Jr., Dantavious, and Devon. Whitaker also had a daughter from a prior relationship, Tiara.
After Whitaker’s death, his son Domonique took to Facebook to announce his father’s passing.
“To everyone please respect my family’s privacy in this trying moment as I wanna inform people that today we lost a legend truly one of boxing’s greatest Pound 4 Pound champions my father Pernell Sweetpea Whitaker,” the post said.
It has garnered over 800 reactions, nearly 300 shares and many comments of support.
3. Late in His Life, Whitaker’s Financial Struggles Also Took a Toll on His Family
After Whitaker’s boxing career ended, his personal life took a hit as he had several run-ins with drug abuse and legal troubles, according to ABC News.
Shortly after winning his Olympic Gold Medal in 1984, Whitaker celebrated by buying his mother a home in the town he grew up in – Norfolk, Virginia.
According to ABC News, the home was a two-story brick house near the Botanical Garden in Norfolk.
Since then, Whitaker went through financial struggles as his career transitioned from professional fighter to boxing trainer. The house started to gather back taxes and since Whitaker could no longer afford it, he had to take action.
4. In 2013, Whitaker Began Eviction Proceedings against His Mother
Due to his financial problems, Whitaker had to file eviction orders against his mother, then 73-year-old, Novella Whitaker.
Whitaker felt like neither his mother or other family members were contributing to the cost of the house, therefore he proceeded with the eviction.
“It’s sad for him to have to take action against his mother, but none of the family would contribute to the real estate and he had no alternative but to use the court process,” Whitaker’s lawyer Bruce Gould told ABC News in 2014.
Gould also mentioned that Whitaker’s money has been drying up since he retired from professional fighting.
“He’s limited to what he can make training other boxers,” Gould said. “It’s significantly diminished over the years and he’s not able to maintain this $400,000 house for his mother and siblings to live in.”
5. Whitaker Called the Eviction of His Mother in 2014, ‘a Beautiful Moment.’
In 2014, a Norfolk General District Court judge ruled in Whitaker’s favor, forcing his mother and siblings out of the house by the end of March of the same year. Whitaker called the ruling, “a beautiful moment,” per ABC News.
“He’s not happy that it was necessary to go to court,” his lawyer Bruce Gould told ABC News. “But he now has two mortgages on the house and the alternative was if he didn’t sell, it was going to go to foreclosure.”
His mother, Novella told ABC News she was heartbroken by the decision but mentioned she will be fine because she is a fighter.
“I’m going to survive…I’m a survivor..I’m going with my daughter…she is taking me in,” she said.
“He’ll be a son forever until death do us part, but he is putting a rip through the family,” Whitaker’s eldest sister, Zelda Brown told ABC News.