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Late Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker left strong impression with participation in charity basketball game  1 Month ago

Source:   USA Today  

Pernell "Sweat Pea" Whitaker’s tragic death in Virginia Beach on Sunday has elicited mourning from fight fans across the globe.

Among those weighing in with memories of Whitaker’s legacy was friend and fellow boxing champion Roy Jones Jr., who succeeded Whitaker as “The Ring’s Pound-for-Pound No. 1 Boxer” in 1997.  

“It’s a great loss to the sport of boxing,” Jones Jr. said in a video interview with TMZ Sports. “He will always go down to me as one of the coldest southpaws ever. He’s one of the best defensive boxers you will ever see.” 

Though their primes largely coincided, the two pound-for-pound boxing champions never met in the ring; the 21-pound difference between the then-lightweight world champion Whitaker and then-middleweight world champion Jones Jr. ensured that.

The size difference didn’t stop Whitaker and Jones Jr. from forming a competitive friendship, however.

The two squared off in a game of charity basketball at the Pensacola Bay Center on Dec. 10, 1995, to raise money for the Lend-A-Hand Fund, a not-for-profit then administered by the News Journal that provided one-time emergency aid for Northwest Floridians.

Led by Jones Jr.’s 26 points and 34 from Pensacola High and Florida grad Clifford Lett, the Northwest Florida squad rallied to a 116-111 win after trailing for three quarters against Whitaker’s team from Norfolk, Virginia.

Despite pregame talk in which he said he'd go for 50 points, Whitaker was held to just six points. 

The star-studded weekend was part of HBO’s “Reaching Beyond the Ring” series and included a game of H-B-O — think H.O.R.S.E. — that Whitaker won at the University of West Florida.

The celebrity basketball matchup even drew courtside attendance from Evander Holyfield, who was less than a year from regaining his WBA heavyweight title with a technical knockout of Mike Tyson.

Whitaker's willingness to take time for a charity basketball game is a defining "Sweet Pea" memory for Jones Jr. 

“He was a helluva basketball player," Jones Jr. said. "... He had a really good team and he was a really good player. He was a really good person and a champion inside and outside of the ring. I will love him for life.

“We were both at our pinnacles and he brought his team all the way from Norfolk to play basketball for charity. And that says a lot." 

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