A public memorial was held in Miami on Tuesday for the man notoriously known as “The Fight Doctor.” Ybor City native, Ferdie Pacheco was Muhammad Ali’s ringside doctor for years.
He died in his sleep at 89 on Nov 16, but his memory lives on.
A public memorial is planned for him in Tampa from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Centro Asturiano, 1913 N. Nebraska Ave.
You can’t walk anywhere in Ybor City and not see something influenced in some way by Ferdie Pacheco. From the pavers shaped like tobacco leaves filled with excerpts from his childhood memoir "Ybor City Chronicles," to his paintings adorning many Ybor City establishment walls.
Prominent business owners like Jason Fernandez will tell you Pacheco helped make the historic Latin district what it is today.
“He has definitely made an impact in this community. He is a renaissance man," said Fernandez, a fourth-generation Ybor City resident who owns popular Seventh Street restaurants, Bernini, Carne Chophouse and Tequilas.
“Pacheco was a good family friend. When I opened Carne Chophouse he said, 'Jason, my paintings need to go on your walls.' I said, 'Absolutely,'” Fernandez said.
“Pacheco has had a huge community impact, not only in the community but nationwide," said Patrick Manteiga, publisher of La Gaceta newspaper. "When he left Tampa to become a doctor and then that fight doctor and then to do his HBO and Showtime commentating, he became a national figure.”
Born and raised in Ybor City, Pacheco spent time with Miami’s poorest through a medical clinic he opened there.
“People came to him to get medical treatment and if they didn’t have the funds or the ability, there was never a question,” Fernandez said.
Pacheco won two Emmys as a boxing analyst for NBC. While he is best known as the ringside doctor for boxing legend Ali, he produced a full gallery of distinctive paintings on display across the Tampa Bay area, including the Tampa Bay History Center.
“He wasn’t an artist professionally trained and he wasn’t that for a living, but clearly he had a lot of talent,” said local historian Rodney Kite-Powell.
Some of those paintings sell for thousands of dollars. More than handful line the walls at La Gaceta, Tampa’s first Spanish newspaper and the only tri-lingual newspaper in the nation. Publisher Manteiga was a longtime friend.
“Ferdi loved my father and grandfather. He was a good friend of the paper, wrote for us for more than 10 years.”
Pacheco also wrote six books.
“Ferdie really wanted to tell the story of the immigrant community he grew up in and tell it to the nation because he thought it was a very special story,” Manteiga said.
A special story from a special man, leaving his mark in more ways than one.
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