M.D., is 48 years old. He is an art collector, a painter and caricaturist and
he conducts two medical practices, one for charity in the Miami black ghetto.
Dr. Pacheco also is a sports nut who has found the perfect outlet in working as
a fight doctor, treating boxing heroes and bums alike. Since 1950 he has worked
thousands of fights and ministered to nine world champions, most notably
Muhammad Ali, whom he also serves as personal physician. Along the way, Dr.
Pacheco has kept a journal that has grown to book length. Here are
The last perfect
example of a boxing gym is located above the drugstore at the corner of
Washington Avenue and Fifth Street in Miami Beach. It is on the ghetto side of
town and it is the jewel of the world. There once was Stillman's Gym in New
York; now it is long gone. There still is Gleason's Gym there; no contest. With
the fight game sputtering out, there simply are no other training gyms in the
country alive with action. Only the Fifth Street Gym hums with activity. It is
full of fighters in all stages of their careers, every one getting ready to
step into harm's way.
depends on fight activity. In Miami Beach we are fortunate to have Chris
Dundee, the last dynamo among boxing promoters. Age cannot wither, nor custom
stale the infinite variety of his fight cards made from zero talent. Dundee
puts on shows with what he has and builds local fighters into international
attractions. For more than 25 years he has patched together fight cards by
cajoling, conning, gently blackmailing, threatening, conniving and convincing
fighters to work for him for the money available. The result is that he has
staged some truly great fight nights in Miami Beach. He also has had some
mediocre ones and some real Smell-Os. But mainly, he has had fights, and that
is why the Fifth Street Gym is alive and well.
The gym looks
like it was built as a set for a bad boxing movie. First there are the stairs
going up. The stairway alone is worth the trip if you are a student of decay
and the damage that can be worked by generations of termites. To add to the
peril, the stairwell is lit by a solitary naked bulb, perhaps 15 watts, and at
the top, the entryway is guarded by a gnome. Admission to the Fifth Street Gym
is just 500, and because that money makes up part of his salary, the guard is
ever alert for what he calls "mud turtles"—freeloaders who try to slip
by without paying up.
In close-up, the
gnome turns out to be Emmett (The Great) Sullivan, also known as Sully. He is a
refugee from the cold and harsh life of the New York jungle; he is stooped now
and virtually toothless. His clothes hang loosely on him. His cigar is clenched
in the corner of his mouth, and a brown dribble of tobacco juice courses down a
withered jowl onto his shirt collar.
concern is that someone will sneak past him without paying the four bits. Once,
author Wilfrid Sheed, working on a boxing book, tried to breeze through by
airily murmuring, "Press."
your pants," Sully growled. "Come up with the four bits, you mud
turtle." Sheed coughed up the money, and Sully pocketed it, muttering,
"Press. Huh. Press."
When things get
tough and he faces certain personnel problems, Chris Dundee has drafted Sully
into service as a cornerman. However, some Miami Beach fighters are loath to
have the old man in the corner because of his disconcerting habit of keeping
the cigar in his mouth during a fight. Jerry Powers, a lightweight known as the
Prince of Second Avenue, a veteran of more than 300 fights, was struggling
through a dreary four-rounder in Miami Beach one night when he suddenly quit
between rounds. Alarmed, I ran to the dressing room to see what had
"Aw, Doc, it
wasn't the fight," Powers told me. "It was just that the old man kept
burning me on the shoulder with his cigar every time he reached for the water
Behind Sully and
his cigar, you can see that while the Fifth Street Gym is large, it somehow
seems small because of the number of people engaged in frenetic physical
activity. Two of the walls are lined with dirty windows; on them some
long-forgotten da Vinci painted a pair of boxing gloves and the letters GYM in
yellow on a red background. The paint is appropriately faded and peeling. The
floors are in the same state of advanced decay as the stairs, having been worn
thin by the shuffle of feet and the slapping of jumping ropes. The floor has
been patched here and there with slabs of plywood; some years ago an attempt
was made to repair and paint it, but the dry wood merely sucked up the paint,
while the plywood continued to wear. It is clear that the pharmacist downstairs
is in danger of being hit by a falling heavyweight.