As tourists and residents walked out of the CVS Pharmacy on the northeast corner of Fifth Street and Washington Avenue on a sunny Saturday afternoon, most headed directly toward the nearby beach.
Makes sense, since they were in Miami Beach. But many left the CVS clueless of the history they left behind.
That CVS is on the same piece of land where the historic 5th Street Gym, which opened in 1950 and closed in 1993, once stood. Muhammad Ali made the gym famous, turning into “The Greatest of All Time” with the help of trainer Angelo Dundee on that street corner in the early 1960s.
Less than 24 hours after Ali’s family confirmed his death on Friday night, it was business as usual at the CVS. There was no impromptu memorial with flowers honoring Ali on the street corner as most were unaware of the store’s ties to the boxer.
“This is where he trained?” Denver native and Miami resident Robert Atkins asked with a surprised look on his face. “That’s pretty cool.”
But there were some that knew exactly what that street corner meant. Miami Beach resident Stephen Saylor, 46, went out of his way during his usual walk Saturday to find and take a photo of the plaque stuck to the front of the CVS honoring “the world famous” 5th Street Gym.
“People don’t know the actual history of Miami Beach,” Saylor said after snapping a picture of the plaque. “This is the place where I think the real legend of Muhammad Ali started, here at the 5th Street Gym.”
Just 1.5 miles from where the old 5th Street Gym once stood, the new 5th Street Gym located on Alton Road in Miami Beach was full of boxers training Saturday afternoon.
After opening a new version of the 5th Street Gym on its original site in 2010, the gym moved to its new location in 2013. Some popped their heads into the new incarnation of the 5th Street Gym on Saturday to ask about its connection to Ali and look at the memorabilia hanging on the walls.
“Even before today, people come and tell stories interacting with Muhammad back in the 60s here in Miami and how they got an autographed t-shirt when they were 12-years-old,” gym owner Dino Spencer said. “Fighters come from all over the world in an effort to emulate Muhammad and try to follow his footsteps.”
The location and the faces may have changed, but the 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach always will be part of Ali’s story.
“His energy and his enthusiasm is just never ending,” Spencer said. “Even long after he’s passed, his energy and enthusiasm will still be here.”