Candlelight vigil set to honor boxing legend Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker


Vigil to be held Tuesday, July 16 at 7 p.m.

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Community members will honor the life and legacy of boxing legend Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker in his old neighborhood.

A candlelight vigil scheduled for Whitaker Tuesday at 7 p.m. has been moved to P.B. Young Elementary School at 543 E. Olney Road Norfolk, VA 23510. Organizers originally planned to hold it on Whitaker Lane, but had to change the location to accommodate the stage.

Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander, Councilman Paul Riddick, Delegate Jay Jones, Councilwoman Angelia Willams Graves, Councilman Michael Berlucchi, Councilman Aaron Rouse, Honorable Lakeesha “Klu” Atkinson and other dignitaries will be on hand for the event to honor one of the greatest boxers of all time.

10 On Your Side was there in 1994, when Cumberland Street was changed to Whitaker Lane. Whitaker grew up in the Young Terrace neighborhood.

Whitaker was born and raised in Norfolk and began his boxing career at the young age of 9. According to the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, of which he is an inductee, Whitaker had 214 amateur fights before turning pro. He won 201 of them — scoring 90 knockouts.

He won the lightweight silver medalist at the 1982 World Championships before winning gold at the 1983 Pan American Games and 1984 Olympics. He turned pro in 1984 at Madison Square Garden.

Sweet Pea won Fighter of the Year in 1989, and then over the next 15 years won belts at light welter-weight, welter-weight, and light middleweight. He retired in 2001 with a pro record of 40-4-1, including 17 wins by knockout.

Despite the objections of his promoters, the networks and HBO, he insisted that his big fights be held at Norfolk Scope and that his Booker T. High School marching band play him into the ring. And instead of training in Las Vegas, he would stay home and work with the late great Bobby Wareing in Virginia Beach.

Whitaker died after he was was hit by a car on Northampton Blvd, Sunday night.

Police say the driver of the car stayed with police at the scene, and it does not appear that drugs, alcohol or speed were factors in the accident. The Commonwealth’s Attorney will determine if charges are necessary.

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