Pernell Whitaker is being inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in a few weeks. This is an honor he richly deserves. His storied amateur career along with his “Who’s Who” list of boxers he met in the professional ranks surely entitles him to this honor. What a career he had!
Within two years after turning pro Whitaker was beating the likes of John Montes, Rafael Williams and former champion Alfredo Layne. In 1987 he outpointed the highly regarded Roger Mayweather. He garnered his first title shot in 1988 and he lost a decision that has to be rated among the most unjust of all time. Tough Jose Luis Rameriz had “retained” his WBC lightweight title. It was quite a gift.
Pernell regrouped in 1989 and proceeded to give rugged Greg Haugen a boxing lesson to win the IBF version of the lightweight title. Later that year he avenged his “loss” to Rameriz and picked up the WBC title too. Pernell was awesome at 135 pounds beating back the challenges of men like Freddie Pendleton, Azumah Nelson, Juan Nazario and Jorge Paez. In 1992 he moved up to the 140 pound division and captured the IBF crown with a win over Rafael Pineda.
In 1993 Pernell moved up in weight again and won a decision over the crafty Buddy McGirt to win the WBC welterweight title. Next came a “draw” with the unbeaten Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez. This was a ludicrous verdict as Pernell outboxed, outslicked and frustrated Chavez throughout the contest. In 1994 Pernell would again out duel McGirt and in 1995 he moved up again to challenge Julio Cesar Vasquez for the WBA light middleweight title. Pernell put on a boxing clinic in winning another title belt.
Pernell decided to stay at welterweight and in 1996 he received a stiff battle from feisty Wilfredo Rivera. Pernell retained his title but it was really the first time in his pro career that somebody almost beat him on a legitimate level. Cracks were beginning to show in his armour. He defeated Rivera convincingly in a return match. Then in 1997 he nearly met disaster against a spirited Diosbelys Hurtado. Behind on the cards, Pernell showed his champion’s heart by stopping Hurtado in round eleven. No longer did Whitaker appear invincible.
Next it was Pernell -vs- the Golden Boy, Oscar De La Hoya. Although the judges gave Oscar the decision by a comfortable margin, there were many who felt Pernell had again been robbed. A fight against Andrei Pestriaev resulted in a No Contest after Whitaker tested positive for cocaine. In 1999 Pernell had one more shot at the limelight as he faced IBF titleholder Felix “Tito” Trinidad. An older, slower and fading Whitaker was soundly defeated by Tito. Pernell would have one more fight but an injury led to his defeat in four rounds against Carlos Bojorquez.
Pernell retired with a stellar 40-4-1 record. I was not a Whitaker fan when he was on top. I found him rather boring to watch. He rarely even lost a round during a fight. Looking back I see now that Pernell was so boring because he was so good. I watch tapes of him now and I see just how gifted he was. Roberto Duran is my favorite fighter. I feel he was the best lightweight of my time. Nevertheless I feel that there was one lightweight who would have given him fits. That man was Pernell Whitaker. Ironically They are both being inducted this year. Two of the finest lightweights I’ve ever seen.
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