And they say lightweight great Pernell Whitaker was not a puncher.
Maybe in a good number of his fights, “Sweet Pea’ was no monster puncher, instead happy and ready to paint a 12-round masterpiece on the boxing canvas, but on this day in 1990, when at or approaching his absolute peak, the ludicrously talented southpaw put on a dazzling display of punch accuracy and sting.
Facing Puerto Rican Juan Nazario in Nevada, Whitaker destroyed a good fighter inside a single round, in so doing unifying the 135 pound titles; the first man to have done so since the legendary Roberto Duran (what a fight that would have been: Hands of Stone vs. Sweet Pea!).
And while Nazario was no great, he was a good fighter, a tough and game fighter, who had been stopped just once when entering the unification showdown with Whitaker – this TKO coming against the lethal hands of one Edwin Rosario (a loss Nazario would later avenge).
A clean and stiff left hand to the chin did the job for Whitaker, the perfectly executed blow dropping the 9-1 underdog and ending his night in short order. Now the unified WBA/WBC/IBF king at lightweight, Whitaker would soon set himself more challenges, at higher weight classes. In time, Whitaker would hold major belts at 140, 147 and even 154 pounds. A truly amazing achievement. Whitaker would go on to defeat fine fighters such as Buddy McGirt, Jorge Paez, Rafael Pineda and, despite what the official score-cards read, Julio Cesar Chavez.
As fans still in mourning know too well, Whitaker, a once in a lifetime pure boxer, left us far too soon, tragically being hit by a car in an accident last month. The tributes came pouring in, and still are.
We think of Whitaker as a defensive genius, or if you prefer, a hit and not get hit wizard, which of course he was. But this all-time great was also capable of thrillng us with some exquisite and quite hurtful displays of punching prowess.
Just ask Juan Nazario.