RIP Sweet Pea Part Three

Pernell Whitaker

Now campaigning as a light-welterweight, Pernell Whitaker easily outpointed Harold Brazier in January 1992 and knocked out Jerry Smith in a round four months later. On 18th July 1992 he stepped back into world class territory and challenged Rafael Pineda for his IBF light-welterweight title.

The defending champion had been a professional since April 1986 and the sole loss on his record came in a challenge to Mark Breland's WBA welterweight crown three-years later. The Colombian went on a winning run of six before facing Roger Mayweather for the vacant IBF light-welterweight championship in December 1991.

Pineda stopped Mayweather in the ninth round and successfully defended the title for the first time against Clarence Coleman, the same night as Whitaker's first round blowout of Jerry Smith. On 18th July 1992 at the Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas, Pineda and Whitaker clashed for the championship. The champion was docked points in rounds six and eight for low blows.

A right hook to the body sent the champion to the canvas in the eighth and with the point deducted lost the round 10-7. It was the only knockdown of the contest and 'Sweet Pea' became a two-weight champion with scores of 117-108 (twice) and 116-110.

Whitaker never defended his newly acquired belt and by the end of the year made his debut at welterweight, knocking out Ben Baez in the first. In March 1993 he challenged WBC welterweight champion James 'Buddy' McGirt, who was making the third defence.

The defending champion defeated Simon Brown for the crown in November 1991, flooring the Jamaican in the tenth en-route to a unanimous decision. The victory made McGirt a two-weight champion, as he secured the vacant IBF light-welterweight title in February 1988, by stopping Frankie Warren in the twelfth round.

McGirt was stopped in his second defence against Meldrick Taylor, dropping to 38-2-1 (33 KO's) as a pro. At the start of 1989 he moved up to welterweight, winning sixteen bouts before facing Brown. The contest against Whitaker took place at Madison Square Garden. After a close twelve round contest, Whitaker became a three-weight champion by scores of 117-111, 115-113 and 115-114.

Whether 'Sweet Pea' won or lost to McGirt, he was guaranteed to face the undefeated Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez in the September. If Whitaker lost, then he would defend his IBF light-welterweight belt against his WBC counterpart, as he won, Chavez would step up to the welterweight division in an attempt to become a four-weight champion.

The Mexican had been undefeated since turning pro back February 1980, amassing a record of eighty-seven wins with seventy-two stoppages. He won world titles at super-featherweight, lightweight and light-welterweight.

Whitaker-Chavez took place the Aladome in San Antonio, Texas. The fight was one of the highly anticipated matchups of the nineties with both men being rated in the pound-for-pound ratings as the best for the past three-and-a-half-years.

The Mexican insisted on a catchweight of 145 pounds (65.77 KG) and came out strongly in the first two rounds. In round three the WBC welterweight champion worked behind a crisp right jab and his elusiveness was causing the Mexican some problems.

By the fourth, Whitaker had got into his rhythm, causing the Mexican to become frustrated by the champion's slipperiness. Team Chavez screamed at their man to press the attack between rounds four and five. The challenger scored the best round of the contest, with Whitaker responding by winning rounds six to eight.

Chavez did have a good ninth round and he started fast in the tenth, with Whitaker getting the better of him with the left hand. The champion stormed the eleventh and kept out of harm's way in the final round. Chavez looked perplexed at the bell and raised his arms in wishful thinking.

The Showtime commentary team unanimously agreed that Whitaker had done more than enough to inflict the first defeat of Chavez's career. The judges scored the contest 115-113 and two dead level cards of 115-115 meaning the bout finished as a majority draw.

The pro Mexican crowd of 65,000, who cheered everything their man landed and were silenced in the middle rounds by the skills of Whitaker, booed the decision. The media couldn't believe it either and questioned what the judges, Mickey Vann, Franz Marti and Jack Woodruff had watched. Sports Illustrated ran with the headline 'Robbed!', which Whitaker was most definitely cheated out of a deserved points victory.

In April 1994 Whitaker put the controversial draw behind him and outpointed Santos Cardona and six months later outscored James McGirt for a second time. In March 1995 he stepped up to the light-middleweight division and took on WBA champion Julio Cesar Vasquez.