Legendary boxer Pernell Whitaker, an Olympic gold medalist who won world titles in four weight classes as a professional, died Sunday after getting hit by a car in Virginia Beach, Virginia, police said in a statement.
Whitaker (40-4-1, 17 KOs) fought seven times in Atlantic City during a 17-year pro career that began soon after he won a gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. He won all seven bouts.
His first fight in Atlantic City, a fourth-round TKO over Danny Avery, occurred Jan. 20, 1984, at Harrah’s Atlantic City’s former Broadway by the Bay Theatre. Olympic teammates Evander Holyfield and Meldrick Taylor, who were all promoted by Totowa-based Main Events, also were on the card.
“I loved P.W., and he loved me — there was no doubt,” Main Events President Kathy Duva told ESPN on Monday. “He was this person who was only comfortable in the ring.
“He had demons (outside the ring), but when he was in the ring, that was when he was in control and when he was happy and when he was the very best at what he did, and he wanted to show that to everybody.”
Whitaker, a left-hander who was considered a superb defensive fighter, went on to win world championships in the lightweight (135 pounds), super-lightweight (140), welterweight (147) and super-welterweight (154) divisions.
He had five title bouts in Atlantic City. He defended his lightweight title with a 12-round unanimous decision over Freddie Pendleton on Feb. 3, 1990, at Boardwalk Hall and retained his welterweight championships in 1995 with consecutive victories over Julio Cesar Vasquez (unanimous decision), Gary Jacobs (unanimous decision) and Jake Rodriguez (sixth-round TKO) at the same arena.
Two years later, he earned the final victory of his career at Boardwalk Hall’s Adrian Phillips Ballroom. Trailing on the scorecards after 10 rounds against Diosbelys Hurtado, Whitaker staged a furious rally that produced an 11th-round TKO on Jan. 24, 1997.