Friends and family react to the tragic loss of Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A world champion boxing legend from Norfolk was killed while crossing the street Sunday night in Virginia Beach.

55-year-old Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker was killed near the intersection of Northampton Boulevard and Baker Road around 10 p.m.

Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker at the street naming dedication in Norfolk. The city renamed the street he grew up on to Whitaker Lane.

Virginia Beach Police are investigating the crash while the community continues to mourn.

Whitaker was an Olympic gold medal winner and four-weight world champion.

“He kept us laughing. He kept us smiling at all times. Never a dull moment,” said his youngest son, 28-year-old Dontavious Whitaker. “There are too many memories. There are so many of them... just riding around with him in his limos, taking his advice, entertaining us - he was an entertainer to the max.”

He said he learned so much from his famous father.

“I just want everyone to know that he was an excellent man. Energetic, kindhearted - all the above,” said Dontavious. “He was a true champion - pound-for-pound champ; you can’t deny him. [He was] a good family man, excellent father, excellent friend to my friends, to his friends - to everybody. Just a good man all around.”

Whitaker graduated from Booker T. Washington High School before excelling as an amateur and professional boxer, winning an Olympic gold medal in 1984.

News 3 has followed his professional career for years and traveled to cover his boxing matches.

He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006.

Loved ones admit, like most of us, while Whitaker went through his ups and downs he will always be remembered not only as one of the greatest athletes, but also as a great father and an overall wonderful person.

“We’re doing well. We’re holding up, fighting just like he was a fighter. We’re going to fight with him, fight for him, keep his name alive - that’s all we can do.”

Whitaker trained at Wareing’s Gym at the Oceanfront during his professional career.

Tony Wareing’s brother, Bob Wareing, trained the legend for years.

“Physically, he was a beast. He was a man among men and as far as his attitude, he’s always very upbeat, happy-go-lucky,” said Tony Wareing.

“It’s kind of crazy. He’s one of the best that’s ever walked this planet. As a kid, I didn’t even realize that. [I] just thought that he was another family member,” said Jake Wareing. He said as a child he was at the gym all the time watching Whitaker train.

Bob Mathews, Sports Talk Radio Host for 950 AM/96.5 FM, said he covered Sweet Pea in Hampton Roads for years while working as a reporter for News 3.

He said he was down to earth and one of the greatest.

“He was one of the most brilliant ring tacticians that you ever saw,” said Mathews.

He even sparred with him during a fundraiser several years ago.

News 3 spoke with Michael Vick over the phone Monday about his late longtime friend.

Vick said he first met Sweet Pea when he was 10 years old at the Boys and Girls Club in Newport News where the boxer was hosting a boxing clinic for youth.

“I was very saddened by the news. I just saw him two months ago when I was home. I’m glad I had a chance to get one last hug from him. I’m just grateful I had a chance to do that,” said Vick.

He said he ran into Sweet Pea at Roger Brown’s and was so glad he got to see him one last time.

Virginia Beach Police said the driver of the vehicle that hit him remained on the scene and they are still investigating the accident.

There will be a service open to the public for Whitaker at the Scope Arena in Norfolk on July 20 at 11 a.m. A public viewing will be held beforehand from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

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