We should have seen it coming
There were enough negative signs beforehand to reflect that Pernell Whitaker wouldn’t come back from a 26-month layoff and be the “Sweat Pea” of old.
— Carlos Bojorquez’s trainer Willy Silva claimed Duva Boxing had to remove Whitaker from his Las Vegas training spot to San Antonio because he was “messing around.”
— During a press conference last Wednesday, Whitaker proclaimed that making weight wasn’t an issue. A day later, Whitaker weighed in two pounds heavier than the 154 pound limit and had to shed a pound before the fight was set. When he ran into the ring on Friday, there was no definition in his stomach. He looked soft and vulnerable.
— Fight fans dropped the longshot odds on Whitaker’s opponent from 8-1 to 4-1 during the week of the fight.
— Whitaker had only fought once in 42 months prior to Friday’s fight.
— Manager/trainer Lou Duva reported after the fight that Whitaker originally hurt the left shoulder during training three or four weeks earlier. “A couple days later he was back in the gym, fighting, hitting the bag and every damn thing,” Duva said.
— Nevada Athletic Commission’s Executive Director Marc Ratner required Whitaker to take more tests than usual because of his age and a history of drug use.
— A 1998 fight between Whitaker and Ike Quartey was called off because “Sweet Pea” tested positive for drugs. Because it was his second offense, the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming and Athletic Commission required him to enroll in a drug rehabilitation 48 hours after his positive drug test.
Whitaker’s quick start in the junior middleweight bout seemed to defy all the telltale signs against him. He initiated the action, scoring with his jab while using head feints to make Bojorquez miss repeatedly.
“We had an excellent game plan, and it was working. You could see that. He was going round by round,” said Pete Joyner, one of Whitaker’s trainers.
But then Whitaker lost his left-handed meal ticket and defense while throwing a punch in the second round. No matter how much he stretched the shoulder or how few left hands he threw, the pain became too unbearable for Whitaker to continue in the fourth round.
No one can question Whitaker’s heart and courage. He fought the final six rounds against Felix Trinidad in 1999 with a broken jaw. But some should question whether Whitaker really had his head into coming back.
“He’s still a good boxer, but the drugs and alcohol have taken their toll,” Felix Trinidad told the Associated Press before winning an unanimous decision from Whitaker in 1999.
Contrary to what he said before the fight, Whitaker didn’t take Bojorquez too seriously and he was banking on winning a decision that would give him a lucrative rematch with Oscar De La Hoya.
Duva said Whitaker came back because he needed to get him off the streets.
“I gave him a shot right now because I had to get him off the streets and when it’s all said and done he’s going to come work with us,” Duva said.
That came quicker than Whitaker and his promoters expected.
“Right now, I think he has an injury here that will bring an end to everything,” said Duva prior to Whitaker announcing his retirement from Barton Memorial Hospital on Friday night. “We’re going to have him come work with us, speaking to kids, covering tournaments, overseeing our younger kids and going to schools to give something back.
“If I had to say my druthers, I would say, yeah, unless he can show me that he’s Superman, and I don’t think he can do that,” Duva said. “If he was 27, he could take a shot yes, but not at 37.”
After Whitaker was transported by ambulance to Barton, Joyner doubted that his fighter had fought his last fight.
“As tough as he is, no. He’s a fighter in all aspects of the game,” Joyner said. “If they can pop it back in and say he’s OK, he’s going to try it again. Knowing him, he’s going to try it again.”
Let’s hope he doesn’t. Area fight fans had a chance to see Greg Haugen embarrass a washed-up Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini in 1992 at the Reno Conventional Center. Boom Boom was smart enough to realize he had overstayed his time.
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