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THE DOCTOR WHO MAKES FIGHT CALLS
Dr. Ferdie Pacheco
November 08, 1976
Never one to say "Take two uppercuts and call me in the morning," this physician cares for the denizens of a classic training gym
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November 08, 1976

The Doctor Who Makes Fight Calls

Never one to say "Take two uppercuts and call me in the morning," this physician cares for the denizens of a classic training gym

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"Have you heard the words tank job?"

"No."

"In the water?"

"No."

"Take a dive?"

"Oh...you mean the Lewiston fight. Yeah, I can tell you what happened there. Ali knocked me down with a sharp punch. I was down but not hurt, but I looked up and saw Ali standing over me. Now there is no way to get up from the canvas that you are not exposed to a great shot. Ali is waiting to hit me, the ref can't control him. I have to put one knee and one glove on the canvas to get up."

At this point Liston gets out of his chair and demonstrates. The spectators lean forward, the commissioners lean forward. All are nodding in agreement with what Sonny is saying, and it is apparent that all the sympathy in the room is with Sonny and his plight, there on the floor, his chance of recovering his title slipping by as an incompetent ref wrestles with Attila the Hun. And now Liston gets to the punch line. It is as if he has been dreaming about this for years and has defined what happened to him in one sentence that clarifies and exculpates him from all responsiblity for that awful, shameful, emasculating moment when he went from Liston the Terrible to Liston the Dog. Eyes narrowed, he leans forward and says in a confidential semiwhisper: "You know Ali is a nut. You can tell what a normal man is going to do, but you can't tell what a nut is going to do, and Ali is a nut!"

Sonny went on to a tragic death in Las Vegas, which was truly sad, because in the end you had to like old Sonny, with his surly, menacing look and his sweet, intelligent wife by his side, guiding him, taming his wilder impulses and making Sonny almost seem human. I hated to see him go out that way.

The venerable Moe Fleischer says he is approaching 75, but he doesn't say from which side. He has a heart condition, but he is alive today because Chris Dundee rescued him from the killing boredom of retirement and put him back to work in boxing. He is an oldtime cornerman, which means that he still has a gentle touch and a loving way of sending preliminary kids out to mammoth beatings. But mostly, like the other dinosaurs in the Fifth Street Gym, he dwells with rapture on the old days of the Depression, when boxing was a haven for the hungry. Fleischer swears this story is true:

There has been an injury in training, and Boston Promoter Eddie Mack desperately needs a heavyweight to fill in the next night's card. He calls Sam Aaronson, who runs a bustling gym in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

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