Pernell Whitaker

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Pernell Whitaker
Nickname(s) Sweet Pea
Rated at Lightweight
Light welterweight
Light middleweight
Height 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)
Reach 175 cm (69 in)
Nationality American
Born (1964-01-02) January 2, 1964 (age 55)
Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
Stance Southpaw
Boxing record
Total fights 46
Wins 40
Wins by KO 17
Losses 4
Draws 1
No contests 1

Pernell Whitaker (born January 2, 1964) is an American former professional boxer and current boxing trainer. He won a silver medal as a lightweight at the 1982 Amateur World Championships, followed by gold at the 1983 Pan American Games and 1984 Olympics. In his professional career, Whitaker won world titles in four different weight divisions. During his career he fought a multitude of world champions such as Julio César Chávez, Oscar De La Hoya and Félix Trinidad. For his achievements, Whitaker was named the 1989 Fighter of the year by The Ring magazine.

Whitaker is a former WBA light middleweight champion, WBC welterweight champion, IBF light welterweight champion, WBC/WBA/IBF and NABF lightweight champion, and was heralded as one of the top five lightweights of all time.

After retiring, Whitaker returned to the sport as a trainer. Among his trained boxers are Zab Judah, Dorin Spivey, Joel Julio and Calvin Brock. In 2002, The Ring ranked him tenth in their list of "The 100 Greatest Fighters of the Last 80 Years". On December 7, 2006, Whitaker was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, in his first year of eligibility.

Fighting style

Whitaker was a "southpaw" (left hand dominant) boxer, known for his outstanding defensive skills and for being a strong counterpuncher. He was not an over-powering hitter on offense but applied a steady attack while, at the same time, being extremely slippery and difficult to hit with a solid blow.

Amateur career

Whitaker had an extensive amateur boxing career, having started at the age of nine. He had 214 amateur fights, winning 201, 91 of them by knockouts, though he says that he has had up to 500 amateur fights. He lost to two-time Olympic Gold medalist Ángel Herrera Vera at the final of the World Championships 1982 but beat him four other times, notably in the final of the Pan American Games 1983 in Caracas. He crowned his amateur career with an Olympic Gold Medal in 1984.

Professional career


In just his eleventh and twelfth pro bouts, Whitaker beat Alfredo Layne on December 20, 1986 and former WBA Super Featherweight title holder Roger Mayweather on March 28, 1987. Whitaker won both bouts before hometown crowds at the Norfolk Scope, less than a mile from where he lived as a child in a Norfolk housing project. Whitaker would fight nine times in the Scope arena during his career.

On March 12, 1988, he challenged José Luis Ramírez for the WBC Lightweight title in Levallois, France. He suffered his first pro defeat when the judges awarded a split decision to Ramirez. The decision was highly controversial, with most feeling that Whitaker had won the fight with something to spare. In his 1999 edition of the 'World Encyclopedia of Boxing,' Harry Mullan stated that the decision in this bout was "generally considered to be a disgrace." To date, the decision is rated at or near the top 5 in many observer's worst ever boxing decisions lists.[1][2][3]

Undisputed Champion

Whitaker trudged on, winning a decision over Greg Haugen for the IBF Lightweight title on February 18, 1989, becoming the first boxer to knock Haugen down by dropping him in the sixth round. He then added the vacant WBC belt by avenging his loss to Ramirez on August 20.

Now a champion, Whitaker proceeded to dominate boxing's middle divisions over the first half of the 1990s. In 1990, he defended his Lightweight title against future champion Freddie Pendleton and Super Featherweight Champion Azumah Nelson of Ghana. On August 11, 1990, he knocked out Juan Nazario in one round to win the vacant The Ring and WBA titles, becoming the first Undisputed Lightweight Champion since Roberto Durán. His highlight of 1991 was a win over Jorge Páez and a fight against European Champion Poli Díaz that ended in another win.


In 1992, he began his ascent in weight, winning the IBF light-welterweight title from Colombian puncher Rafael Pineda on July 18.


On March 6, 1993, he decisioned James (Buddy) McGirt to become the Lineal and WBC Welterweight Champion.

Whitaker vs Chávez

Whitaker was gaining momentum and boxing experts and fans felt that he needed to win against the pound for pound best boxer in the world: Julio César Chávez. The two met in a welterweight superfight simply named "The Fight"[4] on September 10, 1993 in San Antonio, Texas. In the eyes of many of the spectators, Whitaker outboxed the Mexican legend. However, 2 of the 3 judges saw an even bout with the other judge scoring in favor of Whitaker, resulting in a majority draw. Sports Illustrated featured a cover titled "ROBBED!" after the conclusion of this fight[5] and believed that Whitaker had won 9 of the 12 rounds in the fight.[6] The now defunct Boxing Illustrated magazine, whose editor-in-chief was boxing historian Bert Sugar, had a heading on the cover of its post-fight edition telling readers not to buy the issue if they really believed "The Fight" was a draw.[7]

Whitaker continued on to dominate for the next few years, defending his welterweight title in a rematch against McGirt on October 1, 1994.

Light-middleweight title

In his next fight on March 4, 1995, Whitaker added Julio César Vásquez's WBA light-middleweight title to his collection. This was a history making fight for Whitaker, as he became only the 4th fighter ever (joining Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Roberto Duran) to have won a legitimate world title in 4 different weight classes. But he chose to remain at welterweight.[8]

Return to welterweight

Whitaker successfully defended his WBC belt against Scotland's Gary Jacobs on August 26, 1995. In January, 1997, Whitaker put his title on the line against Cuban fighter Diosbelys Hurtado. Hurtado gave Whitaker all he could handle and then some. Hurtado had Whitaker down on all the judges scorecards going into the 11th round: Hurtado scored flash knockdowns against Whitaker in rounds 1 and 6, and Whitaker had a point deducted in the 9th round for hitting Hurtado behind the head. But midway in the 11th round, Whitaker landed a left hook that hurt Hurtado and, in a rare display of aggression & power, unleashed a barrage of left-handed power shots, pummeling Hurtado into the ropes, knocking Hurtado out and almost completely out of the ring before referee Arthur Mercante Jr. stopped the fight at the 1:52 mark, giving Whitaker the come-from-behind TKO win.[9][10] The win set up a showdown with undefeated 1992 Olympic gold medalist Oscar De La Hoya.

Whitaker vs De La Hoya

He met Oscar De La Hoya on April 12, 1997, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Whitaker, defending his WBC championship and the mythical status as the best fighter "pound for pound", succeeded in making De La Hoya look bad through his crafty defense, but he was unable to mount a sufficient offense to convince the judges. Whitaker was awarded an official knockdown in the 9th round and, according to CompuBox stats, outlanded De La Hoya in overall punches and connect percentage, using the jab as his primary weapon; but De La Hoya threw and landed almost twice as many power punches & had a slightly higher power punch connect percentage than Whitaker, which may have been the key factor in De La Hoya winning by a disputed unanimous decision. At the end of the fight, the judges' scores were 111-115, 110-116, 110-116.[11] The fight was a whole lot closer than what the final scorecards showed, and there were many boxing analysts and sportswriters at ringside who felt that Whitaker actually won the fight. It was another controversial decision against Whitaker, but it wasn't seen as a blatant robbery like the Ramirez or Chavez fights.[12][13][14]

For his part, De La Hoya wasn't too pleased with his own performance against Whitaker and had hinted at a possible rematch to prove that he could do better against him. But Bob Arum, De La Hoya's promoter at that time, decided against it. [15][16][17]

Whitaker's next bout was against Russian-born fighter Andrey Pestryaev in a world title elimination fight, where the winner would earn an automatic #1 contender spot for the WBA Welterweight crown, held at the time by Ike Quartey. Whitaker originally won the fight, but the win was nullified & changed to a No Decision after he failed a post-fight drug test.[18][19]

Trinidad vs Whitaker

On February 20, 1999, Whitaker suffered his first sound defeat against the much bigger, much fresher Félix Trinidad, gamely taking the Puerto Rican the distance in an attempt to win Trinidad's IBF welterweight title.[20] The fight began with both boxers displaying aggressive styles, which included excessive pushing. In the following rounds, both boxers used their jabs most of the time, with Trinidad gaining an advantage when Whitaker attempted to attack inside, eventually scoring a knockdown in round two.[20] In the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds the fighters exchanged combinations.[20] Later in the fight, both boxers fell to the canvas in what were ruled as "accidental slips."[20] On the seventh round, Whitaker displayed more offense, trading power punches with Trinidad, but the champion retained control in the fight's tempo during the eight, ninth and tenth rounds.[20] In the last round, Whitaker, with a badly swollen right eye, displayed a purely defensive stance, avoiding his opponent throughout the round while Trinidad continued on the offensive until the fight concluded. The judges gave the champion scores of 117–111, 118–109 and 118–109.[20]

His last fight came on April 27, 2001, against journeyman Carlos Bojorquez. Whitaker, the former lightweight, entered the ring at 155 pounds. He broke his clavicle in round four and was forced to retire; at the time of the stoppage Whitaker was trailing in all the judges' scorecards by 28-29. Following this fight, Whitaker officially announced his retirement. He finished his professional career with an official record of 40-4-1 (17 knockouts).

In 2002, The Ring ranked Whitaker as the 10th Greatest Fighter of the Last 80 Years.

On December 7, 2006, Whitaker was inducted in the International Boxing Hall of Fame along with contemporaries Roberto Durán and Ricardo López. They were all elected in their first year of eligibility.


As a youngster, Whitaker was known to friends and family as "Pete" and when he began to emerge as a top amateur, fans in his hometown of Norfolk used to serenade him with chants of "Sweet Pete." This was misinterpreted by a local sportswriter as "Sweet Pea." When this erroneous report came out in the local newspaper, the new nickname stuck.

Training career

As of December 2005, Whitaker became a trainer in his home state of Virginia. While the decline of speed and agility pushed him into retirement, his knowledge of the ring and components led him to seek out up-and-coming boxers and train them to fight the way he did.

His first fighter, Dorin Spivey, had several matches scheduled for 2006. He trained young prospect Joel Julio.

Pernell Whitaker was also the trainer for heavyweight Calvin Brock who, as recently as November 2006, fought for the IBF and IBO titles against Wladimir Klitschko, where Brock was knocked out in the 7th round.

In 2010, Whitaker was inducted into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame, honoring those who have contributed to sports in southeastern Virginia.

Whitaker also became the head trainer of former undisputed welterweight champion Zab Judah,[21] who defeated Kaizer Mabuza in March 2011 to win the vacant IBF welterweight title.

Personal life

Pernell married Rovanda Anthony on December 21, 1985 in the boxing ring at the Virginia Beach Pavilion Convention Center.[22] The couple later divorced. They had four children together: Dominique, the late Pernell Jr., Dantavious, and Devon. Whitaker also had a daughter, Tiara, from a prior relationship.

In June 2002, Whitaker was convicted of cocaine possession after a judge found he violated the terms of a previous sentence by overdosing on cocaine in March.

In February 2014, Whitaker made national headlines after he evicted his mother, Novella Whitaker, out of the house he purchased for her shortly after he turned pro. Apparently, back taxes were owed on the house and Pernell said that neither his mother nor his siblings, who also stayed in the house, were doing anything to help financially. Whitaker's lawyers said that he was not making the same kind of money as a trainer that he was as a boxer, and needed to sell off the home to satisfy the tax debt owed. Outside of the Virginia courtroom where the eviction proceedings took place, Whitaker called the ruling in his favor "a beautiful moment."[23]

Professional boxing record

40 Wins (17 KOs), 4 Losses, 1 Draw, 1 No Contest[2]
Res. Record Opponent Type Round Date Location Notes
Loss 40-4-1 (1) Mexico Carlos Bojorquez TKO 4 (10), 0:27 2001-04-27 United States Caesars Tahoe, Stateline, Nevada
Loss 40-3-1 (1) Puerto Rico Felix Trinidad UD 12 1999-02-20 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York For IBF welterweight title.
NC 40-2-1 (1) Russia Andrey Pestryaev ND 12 1997-10-17 United States Foxwoods Resort, Mashantucket, Connecticut No-Decision after Whitaker tested positive for cocaine.
Loss 40-2-1 United States Oscar De La Hoya UD 12 1997-04-12 United States Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nevada Lost Lineal/WBC welterweight titles.
Win 40-1-1 Cuba Diosbelys Hurtado TKO 11 (12), 1:52 1997-01-24 United States Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey Retained Lineal/WBC welterweight titles.
Win 39-1-1 Puerto Rico Wilfredo Rivera UD 12 1996-09-20 United States James Knight Convention Center, Miami, Florida Retained Lineal/WBC welterweight titles.
Win 38-1-1 Puerto Rico Wilfredo Rivera SD 12 1996-04-12 Netherlands Atlantis Casino, Cupecoy Bay, St Maarten, Netherlands Antilles Retained Lineal/WBC welterweight titles.
Win 37-1-1 Puerto Rico Jake Rodriguez KO 6 (12), 2:54 1995-11-18 United States Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey Retained Lineal/WBC welterweight titles.
Win 36-1-1 United Kingdom Gary Jacobs UD 12 1995-08-26 United States Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey Retained Lineal/WBC welterweight titles.
Win 35-1-1 Argentina Julio Cesar Vasquez UD 12 1995-03-04 United States Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey Won WBA light-middleweight title.
Win 34-1-1 United States James McGirt UD 12 1994-10-01 United States The Scope, Norfolk, Virginia Retained Lineal/WBC welterweight titles.
Win 33-1-1 Puerto Rico Santos Cardona UD 12 1994-04-09 United States The Scope, Norfolk, Virginia Retained Lineal/WBC welterweight titles.
Draw 32-1-1 Mexico Julio Cesar Chavez MD 12 1993-09-10 United States Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas Retained Lineal/WBC welterweight titles.
Win 32-1 United States James McGirt UD 12 1993-03-06 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York Won Lineal/WBC welterweight titles.
Win 31-1 United States Ben Baez KO 1 (10), 0:37 1992-12-01 United States Virginia Beach, Virginia, Virginia
Win 30-1 Colombia Rafael Pineda UD 12 1992-07-18 United States Mirage Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada Won IBF light-welterweight title.
Win 29-1 United States Jerry Smith KO 1 (10) 1992-05-22 Mexico El Toreo de Cuatro Caminos, Mexico City, Distrito Federal
Win 28-1 United States Harold Brazier UD 10 1992-01-18 United States Pennsylvania Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Win 27-1 Mexico Jorge Paez UD 12 1991-10-05 United States Reno-Sparks Convention Center, Reno, Nevada Retained IBF/WBC/WBA/The Ring lightweight titles.
Win 26-1 Spain Policarpo Diaz UD 12 1991-07-27 United States The Scope, Norfolk, Virginia Retained IBF/WBC/WBA/The Ring lightweight titles.
Win 25-1 United States Anthony Jones UD 12 1991-02-23 United States Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada Retained IBF/WBC/WBA/The Ring lightweight titles.
Win 24-1 United States Benjie Marquez UD 10 1990-11-22 Spain Sports Palace, Madrid, Comunidad de Madrid, Spain
Win 23-1 Puerto Rico Juan Nazario KO 1 (12), 2:59 1990-08-11 United States Caesars Tahoe, Stateline, Nevada Retained IBF/WBC lightweight titles.
Won WBA & The Ring lightweight titles.
Win 22-1 Ghana Azumah Nelson UD 12 1990-05-19 United States Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada Retained IBF/WBC lightweight titles.
Win 21-1 United States Freddie Pendleton UD 12 1990-02-03 United States Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey Retained IBF/WBC lightweight titles.
Win 20-1 Mexico Martin Galvan TKO 3 (?) 1989-12-11 France Paris, Paris, France
Win 19-1 Mexico Jose Luis Ramirez UD 12 1989-08-20 United States The Scope, Norfolk, Virginia Retained IBF lightweight title.
Won vacant WBC lightweight title.
Win 18-1 Mexico Louie Lomeli TKO 3 (12), 2:37 1989-04-30 United States The Scope, Norfolk, Virginia Retained IBF lightweight title.
Win 17-1 United States Greg Haugen UD 12 (12) 1989-02-18 United States The Coliseum, Hampton, Virginia Won IBF lightweight title.
Win 16-1 United States Antonio Carter TKO 4 (10) 1988-11-02 United States Virginia Beach, Virginia, Virginia
Loss 15-1 Mexico Jose Luis Ramirez SD 12 1988-03-12 France Stade de Levallois, Levallois-Perret, Hauts-de-Seine, France For WBC lightweight title.
Win 15-0 Mexico Davey Montana TKO 4 (10), 2:14 1987-12-19 France Paris, Paris, France
Win 14-0 Puerto Rico Miguel Santana TKO 6 (12), 1:02 1987-07-25 United States The Scope, Norfolk, Virginia Retained NABF lightweight title.
Won USBA lightweight title.
Win 13-0 United States Jim Flores KO 1 (10) 1987-06-28 United States Las Americas Arena, Houston, Texas
Win 12-0 United States Roger Mayweather UD 12 1987-03-28 United States The Scope, Norfolk, Virginia Won vacant NABF lightweight title.
Win 11-0 Panama Alfredo Layne UD 10 1986-12-20 United States The Scope, Norfolk, Virginia
Win 10-0 Mexico Rafael Gandarilla UD 10 1986-10-09 United States Felt Forum, New York, New York
Win 9-0 Panama Rafael Williams UD 10 1986-08-16 United States Sands Casino Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey
Win 8-0 United States John Montes UD 10 1986-03-09 United States The Coliseum, Hampton, Virginia
Win 7-0 United States Jesus De la Cruz KO 1 (8), 2:22 1985-11-12 United States Norville, Texas
Win 6-0 United States Teddy Hatfield KO 3 (8), 2:42 1985-08-29 United States The Omni, Atlanta, Georgia
Win 5-0 United States John Senegal TKO 2 (8), 1:29 1985-07-20 United States The Scope, Norfolk, Virginia
Win 4-0 United States Nick Parker UD 6 1985-04-20 United States Memorial Coliseum, Corpus Christi, Texas
Win 3-0 United States Mike Golden TKO 4 (6), 2:54 1985-03-13 United States The Scope, Norfolk, Virginia
Win 2-0 United States Danny Avery TKO 4 (6) 1985-01-20 United States Harrah's Marina Hotel Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey
Win 1-0 United States Farrain Comeaux TKO 2 (6), 2:50 1984-11-15 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York Professional debut.

See also


  1. Ranking the 15 Worst Judging Decisions in Boxing History
  2. 5 More Of the Worst Decisions in Boxing
  3. The List: The 10 Worst Decisions in Boxing History
  5. "Robbed": Whitaker-Chavez bout, September 1993 Cover - Sports Illustrated
  6. The Whitaker-Chavez fight, September 1993 Article - Sports Illustrated "Beaten To The Draw"
  7. [1] Boxing Illustrated: Chavez-Whitaker cover
  8. | Whitaker vs. Vasquez
  9. Whitaker, Knocked Down, Comes Back to Knock Out Challenger
  10. Whitaker vs Hurtado
  13. A Look Back At Whitaker v De La Hoya, And A Bitter End To "Sweet Pea's" Time At The Top
  14. De La Hoya Proves He Can Win Ugly
  15. "Oscar Time". CNN. 1997-04-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. [
  17. De La Hoya Camp Says No Rematch Fighting Whitaker Again Would Not Be ``good Business, The Boxer's Promoter Claims.]
  19. Ex-champ Whitaker Could Face 6-month Suspension For Drugs
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 Luis Escobar (1999-02-20). "Trinidad Outduels The Master". The Boxing Times. Archived from the original on 2007-08-08. Retrieved 2007-08-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Velin, Bob (March 4, 2011). "Zab Judah continues his personal road to redemption". USA Today. Retrieved March 6, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Sports Shorts". Associated Press. December 6, 1985. Retrieved November 11, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Fields, Liz (February 27, 2014). "Ex-Millionaire Boxer 'Sweet Pea' Whitaker Says Evicting Mom Is 'Beautiful Moment'". ABC News. Retrieved November 11, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Datos y curiosidades sobre Pernell Whitaker en espanol

Preceded by
Greg Haugen
IBF Lightweight Champion
February 18, 1989 – 1992
Succeeded by
Freddie Pendleton
Preceded by
Julio César Chávez
WBC Lightweight Champion
August 20, 1989 – 1992
Succeeded by
Miguel Ángel González
The Ring Magazine Lightweight Champion
August 11, 1990 – January 14, 1992
Succeeded by
Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
Preceded by
Juan Nazario
WBA Lightweight Champion
August 11, 1990 – 1992
Succeeded by
Joey Gamache
Preceded by
Rafael Pineda
IBF Light Welterweight Champion
July 18, 1992 – 1993
Succeeded by
Charles Murray
Preceded by
Buddy McGirt
WBC Welterweight Champion
March 6, 1993 – April 12, 1997
Succeeded by
Oscar De La Hoya
Lineal Welterweight Champion
March 6, 1993 – April 12, 1997
Preceded by
Julio César Vásquez
WBA Light Middleweight Champion
March 4, 1995 – 1995
Succeeded by
Carl Daniels
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Julio César Chávez
The Ring Pound-for-Pound #1 Boxer
September 10, 1993 – July 29, 1994
Succeeded by
James Toney