Freeport boxer Patrick Day, who had been in a coma since Saturday night, died Wednesday at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital after suffering a traumatic brain injury during his fight, promoter Lou DiBella said in a statement.
Day, 27, was surrounded by his family, trainer Joe Higgins and close friends, DiBella said.
Day, a world-rated junior middleweight, was knocked out in the 10th round of a USBA title fight by Charles Conwell at Wintrust Arena.
"I'm broken," said Higgins, who stayed at the fighter's bedside until he passed. "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."
Higgins spoke to Conwell Wednesday, after Day had passed. "He's a beautiful kid," said Higgins. "He's hurting too. We can't forget him."
“It becomes very difficult to explain away or justify the dangers of boxing at a time like this,” DiBella said in his statement. “This is not a time where edicts or pronouncements are appropriate, or the answers are readily available. It is, however, a time for a call to action. While we don’t have the answers, we certainly know many of the questions, have the means to answer them, and have the opportunity to respond responsibly and accordingly and make boxing safer for all who participate. This is a way we can honor the legacy of Pat Day. Many people live much longer than Patrick’s 27 years, wondering if they made a difference or positively affected their world. This was not the case for Patrick Day when he left us. Rest in peace and power, Pat, with the angels.”
Day was a former New York Golden Gloves champion and an alternate on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. As a pro, he reached the top 10 in the 154-pound world rankings. In 2017, while fighting at the Nassau Coliseum, Day won the WBC Continental Americas title. The high volume of punches he delivered in every fight endeared him to boxing fans.
But the way he carried himself outside of the ring ultimately will define his legacy.
“There is not a person in the sport who has a bad thing to say about him,” DiBella said.
Titus Williams trained with Day at the Freeport PAL boxing gym.
“I’ve seen him at the gym six times a week, every week for over 10 years,” said Williams, a former Golden Gloves champion with a 9-2 pro record. “He always set the standard that I was trying to catch up to. He believed in me before I believed in myself. He inspired so many fighters.”
Williams saw Day at the gym the night before he left for Chicago. They talked about the fight and the new T-shirts Day had made for the trip. The last thing Williams remembers was Day’s smile. “He had the same smile he always has,” Williams said.
The Long Island boxing community is a small, tight-knit group, with fighters often criss-crossing gyms to get sparring. It was not unusual that Day crossed paths with many local fighters before traveling. Fittingly, his smile is what they remember most.
Tyrone James, an Elmont super welterweight, sparred with Day a week before the fight. “We were talking about the fight and I was telling him he was ready, he was very sharp,” he said. “And the whole time I was talking, he was just smiling back. His smile was everything. Pat was just a happy-go-lucky kid.”
Tommy Rainone, a Farmingdale welterweight, ran into him at the Westbury Boxing Gym and gave him advice on where to find good pizza in Chicago. “Some fighters try to embrace the tough-guy image,” he said. “That wasn’t Pat. He would talk with anyone and he would be smiling the whole time he was talking with you. His smile was his trademark.”
Day earned an associate’s degree in Food and Nutrition from Nassau Community College and, subsequently, a bachelor’s degree in Health and Wellness from Kaplan University.
“He was a son, brother, and good friend to many,” DiBella said in his statement Wednesday. “Pat’s kindness, positivity, and generosity of spirit made a lasting impression with everyone he met.”
Day was 14 when he snuck into his neighbor’s garage and started hitting a heavy bag. Joe Higgins had no problem allowing the neighborhood kids to use his makeshift boxing gym. But it always had to be supervised. Hearing the familiar thud, thud, thud, he rushed out to the garage to find Day.
“My initial thought was, ‘What the heck are you doing there?’ ” Higgins said in 2018. “Then I saw that he had a certain skill set and I said, ‘It’s time for you to go to the gym.’ ”
The gym was the Freeport PAL Boxing Club.
“Instead of just kicking me out of the garage, I got a formal invitation to the gym,” Day said in 2018.
Higgins will never forget the hugs he got on a daily basis from Day. "Every time he came into the gym, he hugged me," said the trainer. "Or if I saw him by his car, he'd hug me goodbye. He hugged me every day. Who does that? I hugged him more than I hugged my wife."
Higgins, a retired New York City firefighter, lost a brother, also a firefighter, on 9/11. A few years later, he began training Day.
"I thought I could handle it," said Higgins. "But I really couldn't. Patrick saved my life after 9/11. He's the person who healed me. He does not know how much of a hero he is to me. My beautiful hero is gone."