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17 Oct, 2019 18:10

Tragic Patrick Day’s death demonstrates the deadly lure of boxing cannot be curtailed

Tragic Patrick Day’s death demonstrates the deadly lure of boxing cannot be curtailed

Lou Di Bella is a man well aware of the sickening lows boxing entails, but the death of the renowned promoter’s fighter Patrick Day, aged 27, brought home just how cruel the sport can be to those with even the best intentions.

Boxing has been forced to take a long look at itself in the wake of Day’s tragic passing from injuries sustained his USBA super welterweight fight against Charles Conwell in Chicago on Saturday.

But those 27 years tell the story of a fighter who chose the sport in a bid to inspire, for which he paid the ultimate price. With just over a minute gone in the tenth round on Saturday, a looping right landing behind the ear sent Day staggering around the ring, his senses scrambled.

He was unable to defend himself from a left that flopped his body onto the floor, as his head crashed off the canvas as he landed. The knockout was so resounding that referee Celestino Ruiz didn’t bother with a count. Day wouldn’t have heard it anyway.

Lying prone on the ring floor, his glazed eyes had rolled upwards, unfocused on the bright lights beaming down from above him. Medics frantically rushed to aid the motionless boxer, who was rushed to hospital suffering from brain trauma.

Despite an outpouring of love, prayers and well wishes, it was there that Day succumbed to his injuries four days later, surrounded by his friends and family.

Also on rt.com US boxer Patrick Day dies aged 27 after suffering brain trauma in title fight

In the immediate aftermath, it was the well-respected Di Bella, who has spent decades at the forefront of the sport, who perhaps gave Day perhaps the most fitting tribute from a boxing fraternity that has seen a macabre familiarity with tragedy manifest among its ranks.

“Boxing is what Pat loved to do. It's how he inspired people and it was something that made him feel alive,” Di Bella wrote in a heartfelt statement.

“[Day] 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.”

Di Bella was right. Day knew the risks and didn’t need to box. A Nassau Community College and Kaplan University graduate, the latter seeing him juggle his studies with a fledgling pro career, he had a myriad of different career options available.

But boxing was the way the two-time US national amateur champion and Olympic alternate felt he could impact the world most positively. His passion saw him give in to the lure of the sport, in full knowledge of its dangers, driven by a desire to influence and teach, a mission for which he paid the ultimate price.

The loss moved famed trainer Teddy Atlas, an early camp member of the great Mike Tyson and a man hardened by years of dealing with the darker nature of the boxing business, to become exasperated in addressing another young life consumed by the sport.

Boxing is still emerging from two deaths just days apart in July. Maxim Dadashev, the Russian light welterweight, passed away on July 23 after suffering a stroke during an eleven-round beating in a title eliminator in Maryland. Two days later, Argentine fighter Hugo Alfredo Santillan succumbed to injuries sustained in a title fight in Buenos Aires.

Also on rt.com Maxim Dadashev's tragic death should be accepted as boxing's cruel reality

What followed was The Association of Boxing Commissions convened to discuss policies and concussion protocols, on national and local levels, to find answers to how they could have been prevented. Hasty talk of lawsuits was also thrown around to identify guilty parties.

Calls to shut down the sport altogether, however, were quickly rebuffed, with the opportunity the sport gives to those lacking in advantages viewed as outweighing the apparent negatives. No doubt those calls will be heard again in the wake of Day’s death.

But amid the grieving, the pondering and the finger-pointing, it is important to remember one thing: Patrick Day died while treading a path he chose at the expense of his education, and eventually his life.

While challenging the moral fiber of boxing can create many questions, most cannot be answered adequately. Patrick Day’s death brings to light a story away from the violence and bloodthirst. It was a journey born out of a wish to evoke the same enthusiasm to achieve in all those he came into contact with.

As the sport continues to contemplate difficult questions and the subsequent avenues to becoming safer, the question of why boxers climb through those ropes never knowing if it will be their last time was provided an answer. 

A fighter’s passion, will and resolve to spread a message he considers sacred knows no limit, even when what stands in the way to get that message across is his own mortality.

The greatest lesson that can be learned is not the inherent dangers that the sport unabashedly presents, but exactly why fighters are prepared to sacrifice their safety, and sometimes themselves, in a bid to carve out good in the world and in others.

That is something that will never die.

Rest in peace, Patrick.

By Danny Armstrong