". . . What personal qualities and characteristics must the hero have if he is to be accepted as a hero? First of all, he must be physically great, big-bodied, burly, the full of a door. His personal courage must be outstanding and unquestionable. He must be rosy, generous and chivalrous. He must have some noble, endearing fault which is easily forgiven, extravagance for choice. But, outside battle, he must be gentle and courteous and capable of comradery (sic)."
- Oliver St. John Gogarty.
"Fight Doctor," the book about the physician-patient relationships between Ferdie Pacheco M.D., and Muhammad Ali, qualifies the heavyweight boxing champion on all counts. It also includes some revelations.
Ali fought his all-important comeback bout against Jerry Quary with a rib broken in training.
The "boys in Chicago" did not want Pacheco deadening Ali's knuckles with novocaine before the second Joe Frazier fight, Ali said to Pacheco, because they reasoned, "How can you trust a white man that don't get paid?" Pacheco did it anyway and later consented to be paid.
The Great One was assailed by self-doubt after his third bout with Ken Norton and confided, "I don't have it anymore. I was not myself out there. I see the things to do but I can't do them. Did I win the fight? Am I through, Doc? Should I quit? . . . I think I'll hang them up. I think I'm through. What do you think?"
Pacheco, having known Ali since 1962, answered, "I wish you would quit now. I'd be the happiest person of your entourage if you quit now, but I don't think you will." Ali didn't, of course.
Pacheco knows boxing from having worked, free, for 15 years in the corners and hundreds of fighters. He is successful in his profession and has "an established charity practice in the (Miami) ghetto, which was so acti ve that I had to cut down my office hours for whites to accommodate the patients."
Pacheco puts to rest two questions: Was Ali "scared to death" when he threw a tantrum before his first bout with Sonny Liston?
Was Ali ready to quit in that bout?
As to the first question, Pacheco recalls that Ali's blood pressure was 200/100 at the weight-in with "his pluse galloping out of control" after his wild antics.
But, Pacheco reports, "The ride back to the house is pure joy . . . I take my first blood pressure: 120/80. Normal. 'Why did you act so nutty up there in front of all those people? I ask Ali. He replies, 'Because Liston thinks I'm a nut. He's scared of no man, but he is scared of a nut because he doesn't know what I'm going to do.'"
As to the question of Ali being ready to quit, Pacheco remembers in the corner that Liston injured his shoulder and, before the fourth round, alcohol and oil of wintergreen was applied to it.
"Ali got some on his brow." Pacheco reports. "As (trainer) Angelo Dundee performed the cornerman's ritual of wiping his man's face with a sponge, he got a drop in Ali's eye.
"This burns like pure fire and soon both eyes were red and blurring fast. Ali turned to (second Drew Brown) Bundini, sure that the White Establishment had gotten to him and said, 'Cut them off,' meaning his gloves . . . The referee came over and yelled above the din, 'If you don't get up in 10 seconds, you lose this fight on a TKO.' Now Angelo, halfway down the ring stairs, with one hand on Ali's butt, pushed him up and with the other took his stool, and Ali stood blinking, blind, and at the mercy of the murderous Bear.
". . . But by the end of the round a strange thing happened. Ali's eye began to clear and Liston began to get tired . . . The next two rounds were all ours and Liston . . . did what all bullies are programmed to do when the going gets tough: He quit. Now one might say Ali tried to quit. I think you can see that this does not apply here. Ali was young and blind . . ."