Subscribe to Florida Trend


November 20, 2018


A Knockout: Pacheco Gets Candid

Muhammad Ali's fight doctor and Florida Trend Icon Ferdie Pacheco gets quite candid with us and has a lot to say. Plus, read an excerpt from his book.

| 7/1/2007

Click to read more of Florida Trend's interview of Ferdie Pacheco

Ferdie Pacheco
From: "Ferdie Pacheco: Blood In My Coffee" (Sports Publishing). It can be found online at

After hundreds of interviews, TV specials, three books, and two movies, I am still in awe of the fact that I was a part of Muhammad Ali’s life.

Ali surely is one of the best-known people of our age. His fame is worldwide and all encompassing, not just restricted to the field of sports or even the boundaries of the United States.

Interviewers still troop through my study. They set up their cameras, consult their notes, and ask the same questions over and over, but my patience has long since run out. Those who start with the question, “How did you meet Muhammad Ali?” are thrown out of my house immediately. They aren’t serious and haven’t done their homework. I’ve written three books on Ali. Everything has been said. Read them before you come

But when I sat down to write this book, I realized I had to analyze the Ali phenomenon. Who was he? Why was he so universally accepted? What kind of intelligence did he have? Why was he so y? Who exactly is Muhammad Ali?

In good conscience, I cannot skip my relations with him. I can’t ignore him. I also cannot overlook the fact that he made me almost famous.

Almost famous is what I have been during the 40 years I spent in boxing, riding in the Ali circus, and the years following in televised sports. I have Ali to thank. As he says to all of us at every Ali circus reunion, “I made you all famous!”

A German publisher called and wanted 4,000 words on why Ali is y. I laughed and said, “I don’t need 4,000 words. I need four. ‘Just look at him!’”

It is the first thing that strikes you. Ali has an exceptional physiognomy. His proportions are perfect. His face is in its handsomeness. His skin is smooth, with a light, attractive tan shade, a quality inherited from his mom, Odessa. He is an eternally beautiful man-child.

At first, he seems shorter than six foot four, his actual height. Because of his baby face and open, funny way, boxers never saw his size until they faced him in the ring. They’d invariably say in a shocked voice, “But he’s so big.” By then, it was too late.

Sonny Liston was one of the best examples of this. He was shocked when they faced off in 1964. Accustomed to being the big guy, the intimidator, Liston found himself looking up to Ali.

What makes "The Fight Doctor" Tick?
A candid interview with Florida Trend's Art Levy

I'm not God fearing, but I believe in God. God or somebody has always taken care of me. Angels. God or whatever. Always. From the time I was little. I never had a problem in the world that somebody didn't solve. Somehow, I got by everything. Everything!”

I'm in medicine to help the patient. Not the insurance company.That's all. I will never do anything to hurt a patient and I'll never do anything to help an insurance company that hurts the patient. Everything I do is related to helping the patient get well.”

“Then they passed Medicare. Every old person I had in my office who I used to treat for nothing was now a Medicare case. And then Medicaid! Every poor person who didn't have enough money to live or to eat or anything was on Medicaid. That was 100 percent of the ghetto. Everybody could come in my office and it was paid. I had a hard time trying to keep from billing $1 million.

“I was determined to work for the black people. I went to rallies, churches, and worked with black people. And I knew everybody. I knew Malcolm X. I knew MLK.I knew Jessie Jackson.”

I quit when [Ali] went to fight Holmes.It was just a joke. The guy couldn't even walk and they put him in with Holmes.”

“I was the doctor. I was there for everything, from before the training, during the training, during the fight, inside the corner, and after the fight.”

“Although I think I'm a very level headed guy, I must admit the notoriety appealed to me a great deal. I wanted to be well known.”

“I'm a patriot. My grandfather would say the most important thing in the world was being an American citizen. He'd say with that and an education, you can conquer the world. And that's what I did.”

“I'm Ferdie Pacheco. I've done all these things. You can’t tell me sh**.Talk to me about something I don't know about.”

“I like boxing, but I never boxed myself. I was a fan for years before I became a doctor.”

You can't talk to [Ali]. ... The guy can't talk. You call on the phone all you hear is mum, mum, mum, mum.”

“You face aging: elasticity is gone. At age 50-some-odd, you've lost 50 percent of your muscle mass that you had when you were 30. You're less of a person. You have less muscles. You don't have any elasticity. You don't bounce when you walk anymore. You shuffle.”

What we’ve (doctors) done to the American public is evil.I think there's some kind of mistaken philosophy, a mistaken thought, that we now know what we never found out before. How did we get here from being in a cave? ... We got here because, despite everything we do, nature is going to have its course.”

“It's like we've done with flossing. ... What are you talking about? How many animals do you think floss? They got their tongue. They got saliva. That's flossing.”

Digital Access

Add digital to your current subscription, purchase a single digital issue, or start a new subscription to Florida Trend.

An overview of the features and articles in this month's issue of Florida Trend.


Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick

Symphony of the Seas
Symphony of the Seas

A flight to Mars and a room with a slide: World’s largest cruise ship debuts in Miami. 

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

What's your favorite way to participate in the post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy?

  • Black Friday
  • Small Business Saturday
  • Cyber Monday
  • All of the above
  • None of the above

See Results

Ballot Box