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Old guy with a skeptical look and big horn-rims sitting in the last booth on the right at Enriqueta's on NE Second Avenue, rattling his newspaper, masticating his eggs, a magnet for fight and art fans throughout Miami, the Fight Doctor, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco. Remember him? For many years he worked Muhammad Ali's corner, through all the boxing classics -- the Thrilla in Manila, the Rumble in the Jungle, the Brawl for It All -- an era when sports-as-show-biz took off behind Ali and Don King's logorrhea, with the Fight Doctor bringing up the rear. To hear him today, after fifteen years on NBC, negotiating a seamless two-hour narrative with hardly a break for breath -- "Sherman's march to the sea, a jerk in Coconut Grove giving a historical-society reading, he doesn't want to admit what a racist bastard General Sherman was! How his 'total war' program in Georgia anticipated the Nazis, how America's policies have frequently been casuistic..." and demonstrating how "hustlers" such as Ali, King, and himself were using the culture's own hot-air tendencies as guerrilla tactics against the general bullshit -- is true instant replay. What's remarkable is that Pacheco had a stroke last year yet hasn't lost a mile off his fast ball. He's still grinding out books and paintings for mainstream and Little Havana consumption; still accepting speaking engagements; and would still beat the pants off HBO's boxing analyst Larry Merchant if Sumner Redstone at Viacom had enough sense to let him anchor the rival Showtime fight shows.
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