It is a brutal, sometimes savage sport, which in a conflicting way adds to its appeal. It’s understood anyone who enters a boxing ring may not leave the same, but death remains difficult to comprehend and accept.
The boxing community was gutted this week by the passing of Patrick Day, who died Wednesday from head trauma suffered in a knockout loss to Charles Conwell this past Saturday in Chicago. Day, a native of Freeport, Long Island, was 27.
It’s too bad the rest of the world didn’t get know Day like those close to him did.
“He was the only fighter I ever saw who sometimes came to weigh-ins and press conferences with books,” boxing announcer David Diamante wrote on his Instagram. “Sometimes he sat and read before he weighed in. He was an inspiration to so many people. He led by example. Watching him grow and evolve into the man he became was a joy.”
Conwell, now undefeated in 11 fights, was devastated.
“I never meant for this to happen to you,” he said in a statement before Day died. “All I ever wanted to do was win. If I could take it all back, I would. No one deserves for this to happen to them. I replay the fight over and over in my head and think what if this never happened and why did it happen to you.”
Day was 17-3-1 with six KOs and fighting Conwell for the USBA super welterweight title on the undercard of the main event that featured the successful heavyweight debut of former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksander Usyk. Day was knocked down twice, but was fighting competitively until the tragic sequence in the 10th round, when he was knocked down by a left hook from Conwell. Day’s head bounced violently on the canvas and referee Celestino Ruiz immediately stopped the fight.
Day was removed from the ring on a stretcher and taken to Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he remained in a coma following emergency brain surgery. He died Wednesday surrounded by family, close friends and members of his boxing team, including his trainer and mentor, Joe Higgins.
“Patrick Day didn’t need to box,” Day’s promoter, Lou DiBella of DiBella Entertainment, said in a statement. “He came from a good family. He was smart, educated, had good values and had other avenues available to him to earn a living. He chose to box, knowing the inherent risks that every fighter faces when he or she walks into a boxing ring. Boxing is what Pat loved to do. It’s how he inspired people and it was something that made him feel alive.”
Day began boxing at 14, honing his skills under Higgins at the Freeport Police Athletic League Boxing Club, where he trained throughout his career. As an amateur, he was a two-time national champion, a New York Golden Gloves winner and an alternate on the 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team. He turned pro in 2013 and captured the WBC Continental Americas super welterweight title in 2017 and was rated in the top 10 by the WBC and IBF. He also earned an associate’s degree in food and nutrition from Nassau Community College and a bachelor’s degree in health and wellness from Kaplan University. He was open and approachable, a positive presence in his community.
“I’m broken,” Higgins, a retired New York City firefighter, told Newsday. “He was the nicest kid I’ve ever met in my life. He wasn’t just a kid I trained in the gym. He was a son to me.”
Day is the fourth-recorded boxing-related death worldwide this year. Russian boxer Maxim Dadashev died four days after going 11 rounds with Subriel Matias of Puerto Rico in a July 19 fight at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Outside the U.S., Hugo Alfredo Santillan died in Argentina in July and Boris Stanchov in Bulgaria in September. The most recent Americans on record to die from boxing-related injuries were Kevin Payne of Evansville, Ind., in 2006 and Leavander Johnson of Atlantic City in 2005.