Tuesday, March 21, 2023  |


The Ring Archives: Remembering Pernell Whitaker

Pernell Whitaker nails fellow future hall of famer Julio Cesar Chavez with a left cross during their 1993 showdown for the sport's mythical "pound-for-pound" crown. Whitaker retained his WBC welterweight title with a controversial draw. Photo / The Ring Magazine via Getty Images

The news of Pernell Whitaker’s untimely death hit hardcore boxing fans hard, especially those who came of age watching the 1984 Olympic gold medalist dazzle the best of the best with sublime boxing skill during the late 1980s and throughout the ’90s. Whitaker, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007, is one of the few modern-era boxers that historians rank among the all-time greats of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.

The Ring Magazine was proud to crown Whitaker with its lightweight title in 1989 and honored to bestow him its first Pound-for-Pound championship belt in 1995. Below are select Ring Magazine covers and photos published during his magnificent 16-year, 46-bout professional boxing career. The images are from The Ring Magazine collection via Getty Images.

Whitaker shows off his Ring Magazine lightweight title during a studio photo session in his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia in December 1989. “Sweet Pea” already held the IBF and WBC belts, and would add the WBA strap to his collection in August 1990 to earn undisputed champ status at 135 pounds.


Whitaker was Ring Magazine’s 1989 Fighter of the Year.


Whitaker defended his Ring Magazine, WBC and IBF titles with a unanimous decision over Ghanaian great Azumah Nelson in Las Vegas on May 19, 1990.


One of the livelier debates among boxing heads of the early 1990s was who was the sport’s pound-for-pound king, Whitaker or Mexican idol Julio Cesar Chavez, who had compiled a mind-boggling 87-0 record. The two stars sought to answer the question in the ring and a superfight was made for September 1993.


If you were a hardcore fan at the time of this fight, you knew what happened in San Antonio and you knew who won the fight.


Whitaker blasts Julio Cesar Vasquez with an uppercut en route to a unanimous decision on March 4, 1995 in Atlantic City. Whitaker won the WBA 154-pound belt, his fourth world title in a fourth weight class, and then dropped back down to resume his WBC welterweight title reign.

Shortly after the Vasquez victory, Whitaker was awarded Ring Magazine’s inaugural Pound-for-Pound title belt.


Whitaker lost the WBC welterweight and Ring Pound-for-Pound titles to Oscar De La Hoya via unanimous decision on April 12, 1997, in Las Vegas, but he gave the superstar and future hall of famer fits for 12 rounds.


Whitaker, now well past his prime, never regained a major world title after ’97 (although he gave future hall of famer Felix Trinidad a competitive fight in 1999) but he will forever remain a Pound-for-Pound King in the eyes and hearts of boxing fans worldwide. Rest in Peace, Pea.