July 17, 2019
Sometimes news travels slow for some. Not until today did I find out that former professional boxing champion and boxing hall of famer Pernell Whitaker was tragically killed when he was hit by a vehicle while walking last Sunday night in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Whitaker was a champion, and one of the finest pure boxers of any era. He was just 55 when he passed last weekend and his death comes 10 years to the month when three other professional fighters also passed away.
In July of 2009, Arturo Gatti, Vernon Forrest and the great Alexis Arguello all died either by their own hand or were murdered. This month also saw the passing of Jim Bouton, famous baseball player and author of the book “Ball Four” as he died on July 10 at the age of 80. Earlier this month on the 3rd, former NFL quarterback Jared Lorenzen suddenly passed away at just 38 years of old after suffering from an infection.
10 years ago in 2009, in just one month, July, three great fighters all died. As mentioned above, they were Arturo Gatti, Vernon Forrest and Alexis Arguello. The Nicaraguan born Arguello was one of the greatest boxers ever despite losing two very memorable fights to Aaron Pryor by knockout in which he suffered a lot of damage. For 27 years Arguello was a pro and he got into politics following his retirement from boxing. But on July 1, 2009, Arguello committed suicide with a gun.
As for another champion, Vernon Forrest, he was murdered at a gas station after being accosted by several thugs who tried to rob him at gunpoint. Tragically, Forrest tried to run after the suspects and when he lost track of one, he confronted another who shot him eight times in the back and all three men involved were sentenced to life in prison. Forrest was an outstanding fighter with just three losses in his 44 pro fights losing to Sergio Mora and Ricardo Mayorga twice.
As a side note, also in July of 2009, on Independence Day to be exact, that was the death of Steve McNair who was murdered by his mistress and McNair was just 36 years of age. But back to boxers and the month of July 2009. Not just Gatti, Forrest, and Arguello who died, but five other boxers or someone related to boxing also passed.
It was July 22 and one Marco Antonio Nazareth was in the hospital recovering from injuries suffered in a fight with Omar Chavez on July 18. Nazareth succumbed to those injuries and was just 23. Chavez is the son of Julio Cesar Chavez. Two days later, Francisco “Pancho” Moncivais, 21 years old, was KO’d in the fourth round and died from brain injuries a day later.
Also on July 22, Mark Leduc who had retired from boxing but was a gold medalist in the Olympics for Canada as well as being a professional died at the age of 47 as he was in a sauna and collapsed. Former champion Jermain Taylor once fought Nicola Servera who in 2009 was 37 but he took his own life while residing in Colombia. On July 27, William Morelo also from Colombia and was an average but professional fighter was murdered in a shooting.
Finally, there was Octavius James, a boxing promoter who died in his sleep on July 24, 2009. He was only 36. Strangely enough about these 2009 boxing deaths is that the day that Arturo Gatti died, his sister was getting married in Florida.
As for “Sweet Pea” Pernell Whitaker, his resume is impressive. Whitaker fought 44 times professionally and lost just four times. His only loss came in his 16th fight, a split decision loss to Jose Luis Ramirez and it was a championship bout for the WBC lightweight title. Some say he should have won the fight but Whitaker would then go on to win his next 17 fights in a row and along the way he would become the lightweight champion of the world including a victory over Floyd Mayweather’s uncle Roger.
Pernell Whitaker defeated some of boxing’s greatest fighters in his era such as Azuhmah Nelson, Freddi Pendleton, Jorge Paez, Rafael Pineda, James McGirt, Juan Nazario, and Julio Cesar Vasquez. In his final four fights, sporting a 40-1-1 record (Sweet Pea had suffered another controversial decision draw against another great fighter in Julio Cesar Chavez), he lost three of those four fights with a no contest (NC) placed on his record in a fight with Andrey Pestryayev. In that bout, the decision win was changed to the NC after Whitaker tested positive for drugs.
The three losses were to Oscar De la Hoya, Felix Trinidad, and his career ending bout with Carlos Bojorquez on April 27, 2001 two years after losing to Trinidad in an effort to win the IBF welterweight title, a bout many thought Whitaker had won but in the end it was a unanimous decision for the champion Trinidad. Whitaker was 35 at the time of that fight and 37 when he retired.
As for his nickname, Pernell Whitaker was called “Pete” by family members and friends as a youth growing up in Norfolk, Virginia but when fighting as an amateur boxer, fans would yell out “Sweet Pete.” A Virginia sportswriter got the chant wrong reporting it as Sweet Pea. The new nickname stuck. Despite some personal issues Whitaker went through with drug abuse the boxing world is mourning the loss of this great fighter this week.
Many football fans especially those who follow the Pittsburgh Steelers are well aware of the cancer scare that running back James Conner once went through. This week, Conner was very upfront in regards to what that experience was like as he was interviewed by music personality Mike Stud on his podcast titled “Ya Never Know: ya know what I mean?” Some of what Conner said follows.
“So I get some tests done. I got a tumor surrounding my heart, bro. My heart, I got tumors growing all around it. Hodgkin's lymphoma. Doctor told me I had about a week left. He said, You got about a week. if you didn't get this treated, you had about a week, at the rate it was growing. The hardest part about the whole thing was telling my bros. I remember that like it was yesterday. How would they feel if their youngest brother was not here no more? How would they feel if their youngest brother died? I said I can't do it. I can't go.”
What a story. Now he’s one of the best backs in the league.
The Pittsburgh Pirates got off the snide last night with a 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. Now at 45-49 on the season, the Bucs are still 5 ½ games behind Chicago, 2 ½ behind the Cards, and three behind Milwaukee.
In another sports story, there have been many instances of professional athletes who get themselves in trouble for domestic violence then face a suspension and/or fines from their respective league. Today a story such as this has broken and normally you expect the culprit to be of the male gender. But this case involved females.
Riquna Williams who plays guard for the WNBA’s L.A. Sparks has been suspended for 10 games because last December 6, she was at her ex-girlfriend’s house trying to force her way inside. When the other woman confronted Williams, the basketball player hit her ex-girlfried in the head and then retrieved a gun from her car pointing it at another person who was on the scene yelling threats and then driving off.