Pernell Whitaker: The Sweet Scientist

He was born on this day and he is forever an all-time great, some calling him the greatest southpaw to ever step through the ropes. Others call him, as we do, the best boxer of the 1990’s. Or you can call him, as pretty much everyone does, one of the most gifted defensive boxers of all-time.

Or, you can call him, as Lee Wylie does, a “scientist,” as in “a person with expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences.” In this case of course, the field of study is what famed scribe A. J. Liebling dubbed “The Sweet Science,” the fistic techniques of self-defense employed inside a roped square. And in regards to this particular endeavour, all must call the boxer nicknamed “Sweet Pea” the sweetest of scientists, if not a genius, a brainiac, a master of the highest order.

Pernell Whitaker

But you don’t have to take our word for it. Mike Tyson calls Whitaker “a flawless fighter.” George Foreman says he had “the best balance I’ve ever seen.” Floyd Mayweather calls him “one of the best to ever do it.”

Or why not ask two-time world champion James “Buddy” McGirt who declared “Sweet Pea” the finest fighter he ever faced in his prolific career. Or check in with Greg Haugen, an experienced battler and world champ who mixed it up with a long list of top talents, including Hector Camacho, Ray Mancini, Vinny Pazienza, and Julio Cesar Chavez. When he retired, Haugen was asked who was the best pugilist he ever faced and he didn’t hesitate for a second. “Hands down,” he said, “Pernell Whitaker.”

Judges be damned: Whitaker humbles Chavez with his scientific brilliance.

But that leaves one essential question: what exactly was it that made Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker — an Olympic gold-medalist and four-time world champion — so great? What specific tactics and stratagems separated him from his contemporaries to such a degree that he didn’t just defeat his opponents, he out-classed them, leaving them bewildered and befuddled and shaking their heads at his scientific mastery?

Well, for the answer to that question, you could do much worse than take some time on the anniversary of Pernell Whitaker’s birth to watch this masterpiece from video virtuoso Lee Wylie. Here, Wylie pays tribute to an all-time great who was taken from us far too soon, and shows precisely how one of the fight game’s greatest scientists, a true master of fistic alchemy, worked his magic in the laboratory of his choice, that being the spotlight inside the roped square. Check it out:

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2 thoughts on “Pernell Whitaker: The Sweet Scientist

  • March 23, 2020 at 5:00 am

    Another awesome piece, Lee! Pernell was one of the most gifted pugilists to ever step through the ropes. It’s easy to forget for all his supernatural skills, he was mean and downright nasty, especially on the inside. Lee, I absolutely love your work!


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