Dr. Ferdie Pacheco
With his most famous client
The news of the death of Dr. Ferdie Pacheco on Friday at the age of 89 arrived rather serendipitously, as I am about halfway through Jonathon Eig's terrific new biography of Muhammad Ali, "Ali: A Life". Pacheco, as you might expect, is a fairly large character in this particular book.
I found it to be an interesting factoid that Pacheco found his way to the gritty 5th Street Gym in Miami, run by Angelo Dundee, and offered his medical services to the trainers and boxers there for the simple reason that it would be a way for him to "get into see the fights for free." It was this less than altruistic notion that allowed Pacheco to be swept into the entourage of Muhammad Ali and thus play a part in one of the greatest sports sideshows of the twentieth century. In addition to working with Ali, Pacheco worked with and provided medical services to eleven other world champions trained by Dundee.
In the late 1970's, Pacheco advised that Ali quit boxing as he feared the damage that a lifetime of blows to the head was doing to the boxer. When such advice went unheeded, Pacheco quit the Ali camp, yet he remained around the fringes of the sport, working as a fight analyst for various television networks.
His obituary in the New York Times ended with this observation and quote from the Fight Doctor:
Dr. Pacheco became a vocal advocate for enhanced safety measures for boxers. He also had regrets, despite all his good moments in the world of the ring.
“Why was I, an ethical physician with a large charity practice, part of a sport that allowed death?” he once asked. “I never found a suitable answer.”
RIP Ferdie Pacheco