Over the past few weeks I have been traveling, mostly on vacation. These travels took me, of all places, to Miami. It gave me the opportunity to meet with one of my favorite people. In my 80 years on earth, I have known and been involved with him for over 50% of that time.
I have learned from him. I have shared with him his love of literature and art. I have watched as his fabulous talent produced one brilliant painting after another. I have seen him write outstanding screenplays and wonderful books. However, as great as his talent is and despite the numerous commissions he has been given for his art, he has never been the recipient of a national reputation in these areas.
Instead, Ferdie Pacheco has been known worldwide as “The Fight Doctor” — a sobriquet he earned as the doctor in the corner for numerous world boxing champions including the great Muhammad Ali. However, he is much more than that. He is a font of innate generosity and well-earned intelligence.
He has written a factual book called Tales from the 5th Street Gym: Ali, the Dundees, and Miami’s Golden Age of Boxing. To say I enjoyed it is an understatement. It is in the genre of Damon Runyon and Grantland Rice. The real life characters he writes about and the series of humorous and tragic characters as well as events, which he so aptly describes, are worthy of a hit Broadway musical.
The late, great Budd Schulberg, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter, called Ferdie a national treasure. Budd hit the nail on the head when he aptly said in his lifetime he had met many talented people, but only one he would call a renaissance man.
That is Ferdie.
Whenever you are with Ferdie, you feel his magnetic energy, his enthusiasm for life and even his wide range of interests. He is extremely talkative because he a great deal to say. You listen and learn and through his words, you suddenly find yourself drawn into the inner circle of boxing mystique.
Tales of the 5th St Gym does exactly that. You are transported by word pictures to places you only imagined. What you don’t find out is who Ferdie is.
You probably know he’s a learned medical man. That’s part of the story. To say he is warm and generous, that’s still another part. In fact, a successful doctor during the halcyon days of the 5th St Gym in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, he put in his time working with the fighters while at the same time operating two Miami medical clinics.
One clinic was located in what was considered a desirable area of the city. Here, he had a paying clientele. HThe other clinic was in a downtrodden neighborhood. In the latter, many couldn’t pay — or if they could, they would manage to do so without money. He brought many a live chicken home.
His dynamic oil paintings demand a five-figure price tag and many of them hang in some of America’s most prestigious collections, both in museums and in private homes. In his beautiful home of 50 years, which he enjoys with his wife Lucita, herself a renowned Flamenco Dancer, every available space of wall is covered by the dynamic colors of his artwork.
Yet, without neglecting any of the aforementioned, he was able to indulge himself in his number one passion: Being around and caring for the health of fighters. To everyone’s surprise, he never earned a penny, or took one for his service.
He gave of himself both tirelessly and cheerfully, supplying the finest medical attention he could provide. As you read Tales from 5th St. Gym, you will feel his passion. The book has 250 pages. Once started, I could not put it down.
After all, as Ferdie wrote in his dedication to me, “For Shelly- The Promoter. It’s been a joy to share our crazy life with you. You’ll like this book. It’s about us.”
I urge you to get it. It’s the finest insight into the seamy world of boxing you will ever read. IT’S GREAT!