Back In The Day: Clay Conquers Liston in Miami Beach

By | February 25th, 2011 | No Comments
Clay - Liston

You've seen it before, but ain't it pretty?

On Feb. 25, 1964, in Miami Beach, Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) cashed the biggest mouth-written check in the history of sport when he TKO’d Sonny Liston, knock-out artist and reigning heavyweight world champion, after six rounds.

Absolutely no one has talked more shit — in verse, no less — before a sporting event than the 22-year-old “Louisville Lip” did in the lead up to this legendary fight. Exhibit A, a poem Clay had his sparring partner read on national television the night before the match:

Clay comes out to meet Liston and Liston starts to retreat, if Liston goes back an inch farther he’ll end up in a ringside seat. Clay swings with a left, Clay swings with a right, just look at young Cassius carry the fight. Liston keeps backing but there’s not enough room, it’s a matter of time until Clay lowers the boom. Then Clay lands with a right, what a beautiful swing, and the punch raised the bear clear out of the ring.*

Liston’s response, also delivered by his sparring partner: “Cassius, you’re my million dollar baby, so please don’t let anything happen to you before tomorrow night.”

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Chat with Fight Doctor Ferdie Pacheco about 5th St. Gym

By | November 19th, 2010 | No Comments
Tales From the 5th Street Gym cover

Author Ferdie Pacheco, right, was Ali's fight doctor for 15 years.

If Neil Armstrong had once landed on Muhammad Ali’s toe, chances are he’d be best known for that. So it goes without saying that accomplished author, painter, and screenwriter Ferdie Pacheco is himself best known as the “Fight Doctor” after serving 15 years as The Champ’s physician.

In his latest book, Tales from the 5th St. Gym, which he will discuss on Saturday at the Miami Book Fair, Pacheco recounts his 40 years ringside in the temple of boxing’s golden age. Originally at 501 Washington Avenue, in South Beach, the 5th Street Gym bred some of boxing’s greatest champions, including Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman, and Muhammad Ali. In the book, Pacheco and several guest writers share their memories of the Oz-esque world that was the 5th Street Gym and of its “Wizard,” Chris Dundee, the older brother of Angelo Dundee, Ali’s cornerman.

On Wednesday, I spoke with the Fight Doctor by phone about his new book, the 5th Street Gym’s mystique, and the difference between a gym and a gymnasium.

You start your book by recounting how the commemorative plaque for the original 5th Street Gym, which was torn down in 1993 to make room for a parking lot, makes no mention of Chris Dundee. That, you say, is the reason you wrote the book.

Ferdie Pacheco: I think he was being disparaged, is what it was. It was the 5th Street Gym, and it was Chris Dundee’s 5th Street Gym. I wanted to set the record straight.

What made the 5th Street Gym such a special place?

Ferdie Pacheco: If you were going to be a good boxer, if you were going to fight in major fights, you had to go through the 5th Street Gym, and that made it incredibly important. You had to go through 5th Street Gym to get to the championship.

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Top Ten Miami Book Fair International Events

By | November 14th, 2010 | No Comments


The week-long Miami Book Fair International starts today, and with hundreds of events on the schedule choosing the ten best is no easy task. As in a game of musical chairs, inevitably one rare literary opportunity or another finds itself without a spot on the list. Which is to say, the Fair boasts enough high-quality guests and events to make a book worm wriggle with glee. But with only 24 hours in the day and a $10 fee to see some of the headliners (John Waters, Patti Smith, Pat Conroy), you’re likely going to have to make some choices. To help you decide, here, in chronological order, are our top ten recommendations, which include a few of the big names, some local writers, and mostly freebies.

1. Jay-Z in conversation with Cornel West via webcast (Monday, Nov. 15 @ 7 p.m.)

While this would be far cooler in person, don’t miss a rare chance to hear two very different American iconoclasts shooting the breeze. Jay-Z will discuss Decoded, “an intimate, first-hand account of an artist, his work, and the culture that so powerfully shaped him.”

Admission: Free

2. Cuba: My Revolution (Monday, Nov. 15 – Sunday, Nov. 21)

This exhibition will showcase originals from Inverna Lockpez’s 1960 graphic novel Cuba: My Revolution, “the story of a teenager who put aside her dreams of being an artist to become a doctor and militiawoman when Fidel Castro came to power.” The exhibit features originals for the book by acclaimed comics creator Dean Haspiel and reproductions of Lockpez’s 1960s drawings.

Admission: Free

3. John Waters, Role Models (Wednesday, Nov. 17 @ 8 p.m.)

Perhaps “the filthiest person alive” for more than 40 years, John Waters will discuss his collection of essays on Tennessee Williams, a lesbian stripper, and a Charles Manson devotee (among others). Question is, Will he ride in on a pink flamingo?

Admission: $10 ticket required

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