Dr. Ferdie Pacheco (born December 8, 1927) is the former personal physician and cornerman for world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, as well as numerous other boxing champions. Beginning in the late 1970s, Pacheco was a TV boxing analyst for several television networks, most notably Showtime. Pacheco is also a prolific author and painter and currently resides in Miami, Florida with his wife Luisita. His nickname is the "Fight Doctor."
Ferdie Pacheco was born in the immigrant community of Ybor City in Tampa, Florida, to J.D. and Consuela Pacheco. He is of Spaniard-Cuban descent. 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 later teenage years, Pacheco got a job as a waiter at the Columbia Restaurant.
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. 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.
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 Little Havana 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.
Ferdie Pacheco met Muhammad Ali in 1960, when the then-Cassius Clay came to the 5th Street Gym to train with Dundee. Pacheco became Clay's cornerman and personal physician in 1962 and worked with him through many matches and many years, including all three of his successful title bouts. Pacheco described Ali as the most perfect human being he had ever seen. When Clay joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1964, members of the Nation reportedly wanted his to replace Pacheco, Dundee, and the rest of his support staff, but Ali refused, preferring to continue working with the people who had helped him become the heavyweight champion.
By the mid-1970s, Pacheco noticed that Ali's reflexes had slowed and was concerned that the veteran boxer had suffered brain and kidney damage due to years of punishment in the ring. After Ali won a decision against the notoriously hard-hitting Earnie Shavers in September 1977, Pacheco recommended that he retire. Ali refused, so Pacheco decided to leave the boxer's camp. Later, Pacheco 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." 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. 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."
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 is fluent in Spanish and acted as translator for audiences when bouts featured the corners of Mexican and Puerto Rican fighters.
Pacheco is 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, he has written 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).
Pacheco is also an award-winning self-taught artist, primarily inspired by Norman Rockwell with influences of Diego Rivera's use of bold colors. 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.
Today, Pacheco lives in Miami. His wife, Luisita, has co-authored a number of his books and is his official photographer and manager. Pacheco has four children: Dawn Marie, Ferdie James, Tina Louise, as well as Evelyn.