At its best, boxing is the most exhilarating sport in the world. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, as great as a big fight night, especially when the bout delivers the kind of excitement and drama we hope for.
And then there are those awful nights, rare as they are, when things go so terribly wrong and a fighter suffers a serious or fatal injury from a fight, because no matter what safety protocols are put into place, boxing is inherently dangerous given that the object is to hit your opponent enough to force a stoppage or render him incapacitated for 10 seconds.
Boxers know they are risking their health and lives every time they enter the ring. They are brave warriors, yet know the inherent dangers that come with their occupation.
Junior middleweight Patrick Day knew, as well, but that doesn’t make it any easier to know that today he is fighting for his life after suffering a 10th-round knockout loss Saturday night at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
Charles Conwell, a 21-year-old blue-chip prospect from Cleveland and a 2016 U.S. Olympian, was matched with Day, 27, of Freeport, New York, a former amateur standout in his own right, with the idea that Day would give him the first serious test of his career.
Day (17-4-1, 6 KOs) was coming off a hard-fought decision loss to Carlos Adames, another up-and-coming fighter, on June 28, and was the underdog against Conwell, but it was an intriguing match.
Could Conwell, who didn’t look great in his previous bout in June, pass his biggest test? Would Day prove to be too experienced and get himself back on track?
Conwell looked sharp. He won most of the rounds — albeit in competitive fashion — and knocked Day down in the fourth and eighth rounds. In the 10th round, Conwell landed two right hands and a left hook for the knockout. The back of Day’s head slammed into the mat as he went down, and referee Celestino Ruiz immediately waved off the fight.
Day would not regain consciousness. He was rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, lapsed into a coma and underwent emergency brain surgery. He remains in critical condition.
Members of Day’s family flew to Chicago on Sunday morning to keep vigil over him. The boxing world has had an outpouring of good wishes and prayers for a young man with a sterling reputation as a friend to everybody.
Lou DiBella, Day’s promoter, could barely speak without getting choked up on Sunday.
He instead offered his thoughts via social media, writing, “Pat Day makes any room he is in a better place. I’ve never met anyone who’s met Patrick and not liked him. Never heard him utter a mean word. Never saw him greet someone without a big smile. Life doesn’t seem fair sometimes. Please keep Pat in your prayers, thoughts, and hearts.”
Former junior welterweight world titlist Chris Algieri has known Day for years.
“Pat is one of the nicest and most humble guys you’ll ever meet,” he said. “On top of that, he is extremely driven and is an absolute warrior in the gym and in the ring. If anyone can recover from this, he can.”
Sometimes when a fighter suffers a traumatic injury, there are aspects of the fight or care that can be singled out for blame. But sometimes there is nobody or nothing to blame.
Day did not take a sustained beating in this bout. There was not a single moment when anybody would have said that it needed to be stopped until the knockout. Day’s corner, namely trainer Joe Higgins and Ruiz, certainly did their jobs properly.
The Illinois State Athletic Commission’s medical personnel reacted and attended to Day immediately. It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes from the time the fight ended until he was in an ambulance and on his way to the hospital.
Conwell (11-0, 8 KOs) showed immense class. He had just scored his biggest win in spectacular fashion but quickly realized the severity of the situation. Instead of celebrating, Conwell remained calm and poised while the doctors did their work.
Conwell feels terrible about what happened. He did not wish to hurt Day. He was only doing his job, the same way Day was doing his.
“Wishing him a fast recovery, praying for him every four hours throughout the day,” Conwell said to ESPN via message on Sunday night. “I will not be able to sleep well until he comes home! Patrick Day is a super nice guy and doesn’t deserve this! I know in my mind he will pull through for all of us!”
Warrington’s rise continues
For the past several years, the featherweight division has been loaded with talent. During that time, Josh Warrington wasn’t the center of attention. With another strong victory Saturday, that situation has changed.
Making his third title defense, Warrington (30-0, 7 KOs), 28, knocked out Sofiane Takoucht (35-3-1, 13 KOs), 33, a southpaw from France, in the second round Saturday in a hometown fight in Leeds, England, where he is a beloved figure. After Warrington won the belt from Lee Selby in May 2018, followed by tough defenses against former titlist Carl Frampton and mandatory challenger Kid Galahad, Takoucht was a breather, and Warrington scored a rare knockout. He dropped him twice with right hands midway through the second round and then, when he spun him around with an onslaught of shots, referee Robert Williams stopped the fight at 2 minutes, 54 seconds.
With titlist Leo Santa Cruz’s soft schedule and his exit from the division for a junior lightweight title bout in November, titlist Gary Russell’s woeful opposition and once-a-year schedule and Oscar Valdez vacating his belt to also move up in weight, Warrington has to be considered the No. 1 guy in the division.
The next step: Warrington wants a unification fight, but that won’t be easy to get. Santa Cruz is about to vacate, so forget that fight. Russell has shown no interest in a real fight. And the other belt is vacant until Shakur Stevenson meets Joet Gonzalez on Oct. 26 with the winner’s next step unclear. Perhaps Warrington could face secondary titlist Xu Can, should he beat Manny Robles III on Nov. 23, but that also would seem like an unlikely fight.
Fights you might have missed
Friday at Hartford, Connecticut
Light heavyweight Chad Dawson (36-5, 19 KOs) W8 Denis Grachev (19-9-1, 10 KOs), scores: 80-72 (twice), 79-73
Former light heavyweight world champion Dawson, 37, a southpaw from New Haven, Connecticut, is several years past his best days, but he was back in the ring for the second time this year after a 27-month layoff, this time to face journeyman Grachev, also 37, of Russia. Dawson used tight defense, good footwork and a stiff jab to keep Grachev at bay for virtually the entire fight other than in the sixth round, when Grachev landed a hard shot that sent Dawson into the ropes. Dawson notched the win the day after it was announced that he would be inducted into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame.
Heavyweight Cassius Chaney (17-0, 11 KOs) KO1 Santander Silgado (28-8, 22 KOs)
Chaney, 32, of New London, Connecticut, a four-year pro, seems to be developing nicely after a late start to his career. He scored his third first-round knockout in a row and did so in highlight-reel fashion against former cruiserweight world title challenger Silgado, 34, of Colombia, who has faced several good opponents. Chaney put him away with one big right hand to the chin in just 63 seconds.
Friday at Belfast, Northern Ireland
Junior welterweight Terry Flanagan (35-2, 14 KOs) W-DQ4 Michael Ansah (17-10-2, 11 KOs)
Former lightweight world titlist Flanagan, 30, a southpaw from England, won his second fight in a row since consecutive losses to Maurice Hooker (for a vacant junior welterweight title) and Regis Prograis (in the World Boxing Super Series quarterfinals). Flanagan was in control all the way, but Ansah, 28, of Ghana, did not want to fight by the rules. He had a point taken by referee Hugh Russell Jr. in the third round for hitting Flanagan on the break, and, when he committed the same foul again in the fourth round, Russell disqualified him at 2 minutes, 58 seconds.
Welterweight Paddy Donovan (1-0, 1 KO) KO1 Arturo Lopez (5-14-3, 0 KOs)
Donovan, 20, a southpaw who was 161-5, won 13 national titles and claimed a silver medal at the 2015 AIBA World Junior Championships, made his professional debut in expected impressive fashion. Promoted by Top Rank and managed by former middleweight world titlist Andy Lee, Donovan needed only 76 seconds to blast out Lopez, 23, of Mexico. Donovan put him away with a left hand to the head that dropped him for referee Paul McCullagh’s full count.