During the 1980s, there were few people boxer Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker couldn’t take down. He was a silver lightweight medal winner at the 1982 World Championships and a gold medal winner at the 1983 Pan American games. He brought home a gold medal for Team USA at the 1984 Olympics. He went on to a pro career in which he became the world champion in four different weight divisions. He topped it all off when he was named Ring Magazine’s 1989 fighter of the year.
As his career came to a close, Whitaker found life to be a tougher opponent than any man he faced in the ring. He’s battled substance abuse problems, had numerous run-ins with the law, and racked up a list of arrests in the last 20-plus years. He's lost millions of dollars along the way.
On Wednesday, Whitaker took a drastic step to put a halt to his financial slide. He evicted his mother from a house he bought for her in 1984.
If you ask Whitaker, the move was a necessary one. He’d asked his mother multiple times to move out, but she refused. Whitaker told his mother that he simply couldn’t afford the house any more. After all, he bought it 30 years ago when he was rolling in money at the peak of his career. His family wasn't helping out, either. Whitaker was forced recently to pay $18,000 in past-due property taxes his mother failed to pay.
With dismal financial prospects, Whitaker felt he needed to take advantage of the $155,000 in equity he could claim by selling the house. Since his mother refused to move out, he had no option but to take her to court.
“It’s sad for him to have to take action against his mother, but none of the family would contribute to the real estate and he had no alternative but to use the court process,” Whitaker’s attorney, Bruce Gould, said.
On Wednesday, a judge ordered Whitaker’s mother and relatives to move out of the house by March 31.
"He’s not happy that it was necessary to go to court," Gould reiterated. “But he now has two mortgages on the house and the alternative was if he didn’t sell, it was going to go to foreclosure.”
The house has an estimated value of $370,000.
After the ruling, Whitaker’s mother said she plans to move in with her daughter.
"I'm going to survive ... I'm a survivor ... I'm going with my daughter ... she is taking me in," she said.
Whitaker’s sister, Zelda Brown, voiced her displeasure with her brother’s decision.
“He’ll be a son forever until death do us part, but he is putting a rip through the family,” Brown said.