Dubai: You love it or you hate it. In equal measure. That’s the dilemma that the sport of boxing throws in your face. Like a punch. Pow!
From explosive slugfests to memorable triumphs, boxing embraces every component that highlight’s man’s will to win, and at all costs.
It’s great when it’s great. Like when Joe Frazier defeated Muhammad Ali in 1971s “The Fight of the Century” and Ali returned the favour in 1975 with a 15th round victory in “The Thrilla in Manila.”
Mike Tyson, Roberto Duran and Floyd Mayweather Jr have all added glitz to the ‘sweet science’ and global appeal that the sport has enjoyed for centuries.
But boxing also has a dark side. A darkness that is complexly connected with condemnation.
The Bible, Shakespeare and William S. Burroughs have all dealt with it and more authors will attempt to shine a light on the dark side.
But how do you deal with death, a death suffered by 27-year-old American boxer Patrick Day, who on Wednesday succumbed to heavy brain damage during his October 12 fight with Charles Conwell at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
Day was put into a coma and underwent emergency brain surgery after being knocked out in the 10th round of the super welterweight bout. He never recovered consciousness.
This is something that the sport of boxing, currently enjoying a massive renaissance, does not need. Not now, with steadily MMA chipping away at its allure.
The question that begs an answer is simple: What can be done to protect a sportsman from such an end.
True, boxers are well aware that the worst can happen as soon as they step into the ring. They know that as much as they want to hit and hurt their opponent, they will be exposed to similar treatment or more to the point that they are knocked down or brutalised so much that they can’t continue to fight.
Day suffered such a fate despite the many skills and techniques that he brought to the fight. He had heart but even that could not save him from the punches that Conwell landed on his head.
As Floyd Mayweather Jr. once said: “He can have heart, he can hit harder and he can be stronger, but there’s no fighter smarter than me.”
In his case it was easier said than done as nobody came close to really hurting him or inflicting defeat.
But that was not the case with Day, who his promotion team described as ‘a son, brother, and good friend to many.’
The statement from DiBella Entertainment continued: “Patrick Day didn’t need to box. 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.”
Conwell, who will doubtless require rehabilitation treatment himself, in light of the horrifying act that he, unsuspectingly was part to, summed it up best in a letter to Day, prior to his death.
“I never meant this to happen to you, all I wanted to do was win,” he wrote. “If I could take it all back, I would. No-one deserves this to happen to them.”
Boxing does not have the answers, but authorities must find a way to make it safer before more ‘brave, kind and wonderful friends’, have to die.
Fatalities in boxing over the last 10 years
Date Name (nationality) Opponent (nationality)
30 April 2009 Benjamín Flores (MEX) Al Seeger (USA)
18 July 2009 Marco Antonio Nazareth (MEX) Omar Chávez (MEX)
20 November 2009 Francisco Rodriguez (MEX) Teon Kennedy (USA)
5 December 2011 Roman Simakov (RUS) Sergey Kovalev (RUS)
31 March 2012 Muhammad Afrizal (INA) Irvan Barita Marbun (INA)
17 July 2012 Bae Ki-suk (KOR) Jung Jun-ki (KOR)
28 March 2013 Michael Norgrove (UK) Tom Bowen (UK)
19 October 2013 Francisco Leal (MEX) Raul Hirales (MEX)
29 September 2016 Mike Towell (UK) Dale Evans (UK)
27 May 2017 David Whittom (CAN) Gary Kopas (CAN)
16 June 2017 Tim Hague (CAN) Adam Braidwood (CAN)
24 February 2018 Scott Westgarth (UK) Dec Spelman (UK)
5 November 2018 Christian Daghio (ITA) Don Parueang (THA)
19 July 2019 Maxim Dadashev (RUS) Subriel Matías (PRI)
25 July 2019 Hugo Santillan (ARG) Eduardo Javier Abreu (URU)
21 September 2019 Boris Stanchov (BUL) Ardit Murja (ALB)
12 October 2019 Patrick Day (USA) Charles Conwell (USA)