Freeport's Patrick Day goes to 4-0 as a pro
At 14 years old, Patrick Day was looking to make a change in his athletic life.
He was playing football, basketball and other school sports, but they weren't working out for him. But Day didn't want to stop competing because he liked the physical nature of sports.
He finally found something different when he sneaked into his neighbor's garage one day, put on some boxing gloves and began hitting the heavy bag.
The neighbor happened to be Joe Higgins, director of the Freeport PAL boxing program.
Higgins, who has a makeshift boxing gym in his garage, was upset to see Day in there without permission. But that wasn't the only thing that bothered him.
"He caught me red-handed, but he was more upset with the way I was training," Day said. "He was telling me I could hurt my wrist or my shoulders hitting the bags the wrong way."
Higgins, who has known the Day family for years, said he read him "the riot act" first just to let him know there was a better way to do things. But he saw the potential in Day.
"You'll never box throwing punches like that," Higgins recalled telling Day. "You'll get knocked out. If you want to learn something, come to the gym."
Day heeded Higgins' words and stayed with boxing.
Day, 20, has taken off since then, compiling a stellar amateur record of 75-5, which included winning the USA and PAL 2012 national titles and the New York Golden Gloves 152-pound championship last year.
A 2012 Olympic alternate, Day has carried his amateur success into the professional ranks and improved his record to 4-0 Saturday night after a unanimous decision (40-35, 40-35, 39-36) over Carl Hill in a four-round bout at Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Raceway.
Day was close to flawless, as he scored a second-round knockdown of Hill, but his victories aren't as easy as he has made them look. Making the transition from amateur to pro has been a challenge.
"The biggest difference is the scoring system and the pace of the fight," Day said. "In the amateurs, it's about who can throw more punches and land more punches. In the pros, you have to throw the better shots, especially power punches. And you have to be patient in order to set up those shots."
Day's impressive skills caught the eye of promoter Lou DiBella, CEO of DiBella Entertainment, who signed the Freeport boxer to a deal last February.
"I was shocked at how fast he signed me," Day said. "But at the same time, I knew what I was worth and the potential I have."
Day credited his rise, in part, to the influence of Higgins, fellow boxers Sean Monaghan and Mike "Lefty" Brooks and many of his other workout partners over the years.
Said Day: "I was at the bottom of the food chain when I started, but I had a lot of help from people at the PAL and now I'm on my way to reaching my goals."