Pernell Whitaker

Professional Boxing Athlete

“I’m a defensive fighter. That’s the first thing I’m going to remind him of, how to not get hit.”

Pernell Whitaker was American professional boxer, who competed as a world lightweight (135 pounds), junior welterweight (140 pounds), welterweight (147 pounds), and a junior middleweight (154 pounds) champion in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Pernell Whitaker was a professional boxer and former world champion. He was born on January 2, 1964 and started his boxing career at the age of 9. During his amateur days he had 214 fights, of which he won 201. Roughly a little less than half of these victories were by knockout.

In the final of the 1982 World Championships, he lost to then Olympic gold medalist Angel Herrera, but managed to defeat him later on in his career. In 1984, he won the Olympic Gold Medal. Soon he ventured into professional boxing, gaining his first major victory over Alfredo Layne in December 1986 and a few months later, over World Boxing Association featherweight champion Roger Mayweather in March 1987.

Pernell Whitaker

In March 1988, he challenged the WBC Lightweight champion José Luis Ramírez for his title. The fight took place in France, and the match was a close call, with Ramírez emerging as the victor. Many fans and critics challenged the decision and felt that Whitaker was the deserving winner.

He fought Ramírez again in August the following year, and was able to emerge victorious this time. He also won the IBF Lightweight title in February of the same year by defeating Greg Haugen. In 1990, he became the undisputed lightweight champion by defeating Juan Nazario in just one round.

In 1992, he won the IBF light welterweight title by defeating a Columbian boxer named Rafael Pineda. The following year, he became the WBC Welterweight Champion. One of the biggest fights of his career was against Julio César Chávez in September 1993.

The fight took place in San Antonio, Texas. In a controversial decision, the fight was labeled a majority draw, much to the chagrin of fans and critics. Many popular sports and boxing magazines such as Boxing Illustrated and Sports Illustrated criticized the decision. Whitaker was finally able to defeat Chávez and win the WBA light-middleweight title in March 1995.

He successfully managed to defend his WBC title against Gary Jacobs in 1995. In 1997, Pernell Whitaker fought an aggressive Cuban fighter named Diosbelys Hurtado. Hurtado dominated throughout the fight, but in the 11th round, Whitaker landed a deadly punch that knocked Hurtado into the ropes enabling him to win.

Pernell Whitaker

In 1997, he lost a close match against Oscar De La Hoya. He then won a world title elimination fight against Andrey Pestryaev but the decision was nullified after Whitaker failed a drug test following the match.

In February 1999, he lost to Felix Trinidad in an attempt to win the IBF Welterweight title. His last fight was in April 2001, against Carlos Bojorquez. Whitaker broke his collarbone in the 4th round, and was forced to retire. Soon after the fight, he announced his retirement from professional boxing.

Whitaker was married to Rovanda Anthony in December 1985. They had four children together before divorcing. Whitaker has been charged with possession of cocaine. In 2005, he became a professional boxing trainer, in Virginia. He has served as a trainer for several up and coming boxers, including Dorin Spivey, Joel Julio and Calvin Brock.

Most recently, he has been training the undisputed welterweight champion Zab Judah. In 2010, Whitaker was inducted into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame, which honors fighters and sportsmen from Virginia. Pernell Whitaker has also been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Quick Facts

Birth Date:
January 2, 1964

Death Date:
July 14, 2019

  • In 1989, Whitaker was named Fighter of the Year by The Ring magazine and the Boxing Writers Association of America.
  • As an amateur, Whitaker won a silver medal in the lightweight division at the 1982 World Championships.
  • A southpaw, Whitaker was known for his outstanding defensive skills and for being a strong counterpuncher.
  • 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.
  • Pernell Whitaker
  • Pernell Whitaker
  • Pernell Whitaker


BIO: +
PHOTO: RingTV + CelebNetWorth + Independent + NYTimes + Sopitas

Last Updated

October 2021

Original Published Date

October 2021

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