Pernell Whitaker, a legendary boxer who was referred to by the nickname “Sweet Pea,” died on Sunday after being hit by a car in Virginia.
He was 55 years old.
The Virginia Beach Police Department said in a press release early on Monday that Whitaker was crossing the intersection of Northampton Boulevard and Baker Road at approximately 10 p.m. last nightwhen a vehicle struck and killed him.
The famous athlete succumbed to his injuries at the scene of the accident.
“This remains an active investigation, no further information is available at this time,” reads an update to the press release.
Whitaker was among the great boxers of his era, winning world titles at four different weight classes: lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight and light middleweight.
Pernell had just posed for a photo on Saturday with Floyd Mayweather, as the boxers both attended an autograph show in Virginia.
“R I P champ, one of the best fighters to ever do it,” wrote Mayweather shortly after Whitaker was killed.
Whitaker started his professional career 1984 and continued to box through 2001, compiling a record of 40-4-1 record with 17 knockouts.
He also won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and was named Fighter of the Year by Ring Magazine in 1989.
Between the years of 1993 to 1997, most knowledgable fans considered Whitaker to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
As for what transpired on Sunday evening?
Officials have told NBC News that police do not believe speed or alcohol played a role in the fatal collision, although investigators still must confer with prosecutors.
The driver of the vehicle remained at the scene to be interviewed by authorities during their investigation.
The Norfolk, Virginia, native was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006.
In response to his shocking death, athletes from across various fields have reacted in stunned sadness on social media.
“Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker was in the class of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard as one of the most entertaining fighters in my lifetime. I’m praying for his family,” wrote Magic Johnson, for example.Ad
Added ex-NFL star Michael Vick, who’s also from Virginia:
“‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker was our hometown legend and the greatest of all time. My prayers are with his family and loved ones.”
Reached Monday morning by phone, Pernell’s youngest son, Devon Whitaker, could only offer so much after learning what had happened.
“I guess he was wearing dark clothes, the road was dark and the driver didn’t see him,” said the 23-year-old, adding that his dad was “cool” and concluding:
“That’s all I can say about him. 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.”
Whitaker is survived by four children: Tiara, Dominique, Dantavious and Devon.
He was predeceased by his son Pernell Jr., who died in 2015 after a battle with cancer.
May he rest in peace.
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