If you grew up in Miami Beach prior to 1993, the floor above the neighborhood drug store on Fifth Street at Washington Avenue was a magical place.
For more than a quarter-century, aspiring boxers climbed two flights of creaky stairs to a cavernous, broiling-hot room to train, hoping they would emerge world champions.
Joe Louis. Carmen Basilio. Ezzard Charles. Willie Pep. Sugar Ray Robinson. Sonny Liston. Jake LaMotta. Sugar Ray Leonard. And the greatest, Muhammad Ali. All legendary names in boxing. And all of them used the 5th Street Gym to forge their careers. The gym was shuttered in 1992, and a wrecking ball destroyed the building one year later.
Today, one of its regulars is immortalizing the gym in print.
Boxing icon Ferdie Pacheco, AKA the "Fight Doctor," is releasing his latest book, Tales From the 5th Street Gym, this week. "The happiest part of my life happened in that gym," the 83-year-old Cuban-American author attests. "I wanted to commemorate it."
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Pacheco informs Banana Republican that the book is a memoir documenting the rise and fall of the 5th Street Gym, which opened in the 1950s when famous boxing promoter Chris Dundee and his trainer brother, Angelo, brought world championship boxing to Miami Beach. Shortly thereafter, the gym was christened the "University of Boxing."
In addition to Pacheco's prose, the book includes essays and contributions from other writers including Angelo Dundee, Miami Herald sports editor Edwin Pope, former Miami News editor Howard Kleinberg, and boxing commentator Bob Sheridan.
Pacheco will celebrate the launch of the book tomorrow from 6 to 8 p.m. at El Scorpion Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar at 433 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach.