Who Is Ferdie Pacheco? Mohammad Ali’s Doctor, Boxing Analyst Dead At 89

Fernando “Ferdie” Pacheco, 89, known as the “Fight Doctor” for being legendary boxer Muhammad Ali ringside physician, died Thursday at his home in Miami, Florida. Pacheco’s daughter, Tina Louise Pacheco, announced her father’s death on Facebook.

Pacheco was born on Dec. 8, 1927 in the immigrant community of Ybor City in Tampa, Florida. Of Spanish-Cuban descent, the bilingual Pacheco sometimes helped out in the neighborhood drugstore owned by his father, which kindled his interest in medicine. 

Pacheco graduated from the Tampa Jefferson High School and later earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and a medical degree from the University of Miami. Though not a boxer himself, Pacheco displayed a keen interest in the sport and attended many fights.

After graduation, he 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, through whom he met his brother Angelo Dundee, who used to run the 5th Street Gym in Miami.

Pacheco met Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, in the early 1960s when the future heavyweight champion was training with Dundee at the 5th Street Gym. 

Pacheco joined forces with Dundee as Ali rose to prominence in the 1960s and remained in his corner from 1962 to 1977. He played a vital role in Ali’s first fight that won him the heavyweight title in 1964 against Sonny Liston.

Pacheco was one of most important members of Ali’s colorful entourage, and traveled around the world with the heavyweight boxing champion.

According to the USA Today, Pacheco quit working for Ali after the fighter fought Earnie Shavers in 1977. Ali had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and Pacheco urged him to quit. Besides helping Ali in his career, Pacheco provided medical assistance to 12 other world champions trained by Dundee.

Pacheco married Luisita Sevilla in 1970. He is survived by daughter Tina from this marriage. He also married Elva Sweeney, which ended in divorce. From Sweeney he had three children — Dawn, Evelyn, and Ferdie Pacheco, reported the New York Times.

Later, 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. He continued his association with the network until his retirement in the late 1990s. Pacheco earned two Emmy Awards as a TV boxing analyst.

Besides all this, Pacheco has authored several books and written plays, screenplays, and short stories. Many of them usually revolved around the Ybor city neighborhood where he grew up.

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

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