Ferdie Pacheco

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Ferdie Pacheco
Born(1927-12-08)December 8, 1927
DiedNovember 16, 2017(2017-11-16) (aged 89)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
EducationUniversity of Florida
University of Miami
OccupationArtist, author, physician, sports commentator
Spouse(s)Luisita Elva Sweeney Pacheco (divorced)

Fernando "Ferdie" Pacheco (December 8, 1927 – November 16, 2017) was the personal physician and cornerman for world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali as well as numerous other boxing champions, giving him the nickname "The Fight Doctor". He left Ali's team in the mid-1970s after Ali refused his advice to retire, and for the next two decades, Pacheco was a noted boxing analyst for several television networks, including NBC and Showtime. He also became an author and self-taught painter, with most of his works focused on his career in boxing and his youth in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa, Florida.

Early life[edit]

Dr. Pacheco was born in the immigrant community of Ybor City in Tampa, Florida, to J.D. and Consuela Pacheco. He was of Spanish-Cuban descent, and bilingual. His father was a pharmacist, and Ferdie sometimes helped out in the neighborhood drugstore owned by his father, sparking an interest in medicine. In his early teenage years, Pacheco got a job as a waiter at the Columbia Restaurant.[1]

Boxing was a popular sport in Ybor City, with amateur matches regularly held at the Circulo Cubano de Tampa and other clubs and venues around the neighborhood. Though not a boxer himself, Pacheco took an early interest in the sport and attended many bouts.[2] He also developed an early interest in art, which was inspired by a trip to the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota with his maternal grandfather, Gustavo Jimenez.[1]

Pacheco graduated from Tampa Jefferson High School, then earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Florida and a medical degree from the University of Miami.


After graduation, Pacheco set up a medical practice in the Overtown community of Miami. In the late 1950s, he regularly attended boxing cards arranged by local promoter Chris Dundee. At one of these events, Pacheco met Angelo Dundee, the promoter's brother, a boxing trainer who ran the 5th Street Gym. Angelo Dundee offered the doctor free tickets to matches if he would "help stitch up my fighters", beginning a partnership that would last many years.[1]

Muhammad Ali[edit]

Pacheco met Muhammad Ali in 1960, when Cassius Clay (as he was known at the time) came to the 5th Street Gym to train with Dundee. Pacheco became Clay's cornerman and personal physician from 1962–1977, working the corner for some of boxing's most iconic fights, including all three of his successful title bouts. Pacheco described Ali as the most physically-perfect human being he had ever seen.[3] When Clay joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1964, members of the Nation reportedly wanted him to replace Pacheco, Dundee, and the rest of his support staff. Ali vehemently refused, preferring to continue working with the team of people who had helped him become heavyweight champion.[1]

By the mid-1970s, Pacheco observed that Ali's reflexes had slowed, and expressed concern that the veteran boxer had sustained brain and kidney damage due to years of punishment in the ring.[4] After Ali won a decision against the notoriously hard-hitting Earnie Shavers in September 1977, Pacheco recommended that he retire. When Ali refused, Pacheco left the fighter's camp. Pacheco later explained that "The New York State Athletic Commission gave me a report that showed Ali's kidneys were falling apart. I wrote to Angelo Dundee, Ali's trainer, his wife and Ali himself. I got nothing back in response. That's when I decided enough is enough."[5][6] Ali fought four more matches (losing three) after Pacheco left his team before finally retiring in late 1981.

Despite their disagreement, Pacheco and Ali remained friends.[4] The two were reunited in person for a final time in 2002, when Ali, who was by then suffering the acute affects of Parkinson's syndrome, told his former doctor, "You was right."[1]


Pacheco moved on to become a television boxing analyst, working for NBC and Univision. He became Showtime's featured boxing analyst in the early 1980s and continued his association with that network until his retirement from TV in the late 1990s, covering many memorable fights along the way. Pacheco spoke Spanish fluently, and translated in real time for audiences when bouts featured Latino fighters.

Pacheco was the author of several books, plays, screenplays, and short stories. Many of them are set in the Ybor City neighborhood where he grew up. Among his works was a memoir (Ybor City Chronicles), an autobiography (Blood in My Coffee) and a cookbook (The Columbia Restaurant Spanish Cookbook, co-authored with longtime friend Adela Gonzmart).[7]

Pacheco was also an award-winning self-taught artist, primarily inspired by Norman Rockwell with influences of Diego Rivera's use of bold colors.[1] As with his writing, the subjects of many of his paintings are boxing and his youth in Ybor City.

Pacheco was portrayed by Paul Rodriguez in the 2001 film Ali. A biographical film, Ferdie Pacheco: The World of the Fight Doctor, was released in 2004.

He died on 16 November 2017 at his home in Miami at 89 years old.[8]


Pacheco resided in Miami with his wife, Luisita, who has co-authored a number of his books and was his official photographer and manager.

Pacheco had three daughters and one son: Dawn Marie, Tina Louise, Evelyn, and "Astrologer to the Stars," Ferdie J. Pacheco.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Klinkenberg. Jeff (29 November 2013). "Fight Doctor's last round". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  2. ^ Pacheco, Ferdie (1994). Ybor CIty Chronicles: A Memoir. University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1296-1.
  3. ^ "Obituary: Muhammad Ali died on June 3rd aged 74". The Economist. 4 June 2016. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  4. ^ a b Pacheco, Ferdie (2005). Blood in My Coffee: The Life of the Fight Doctor. Illinois: Sports Publishing LLC. p. 66. ISBN 1-58261-843-7. Retrieved 2015-06-21.
  5. ^ Hauser, Thomas (October 21, 2004). Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times. Robson Books. ISBN 978-1-86105-738-9. OCLC 56645513.
  6. ^ "Cengage Learning - Higher Education - No Results Page". Archived from the original on 2007-11-12.
  7. ^ "6th Feature Article".
  8. ^ Goldstein, Richard (16 November 2017). "Ferdie Pacheco, 'Fight Doctor' for Muhammad Ali, Dies at 89". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 December 2017.