After winning on the B-side, Patrick Day shows he’s nobody’s opponent
It was a Friday night when Patrick Day was stopped in 79 seconds at the Aviator Complex in Brooklyn back in 2015. He barely had time to realize what had hit him when Carlos Garcia, a fighter with several more losses than he had wins, landed an overhand right that stunned Day, and a follow up attack left the referee no choice but to step in. That Monday, Day reported back to the Freeport Police Athletic League gym on New York’s Long Island to begin the road back.
Ten months had passed since his first loss, a majority decision to the impossibly tall Alantez Fox on a ShoBox broadcast, but this was different. Losing to a fellow unbeaten prospect on points can be excused; losing to a fighter with a winning percentage under .500 draws up red flags for promoters and television networks.
Suddenly, it didn’t matter that he he had been the number one amateur in his weight class just three years earlier, having won the U.S. National title and National PALs, and was the alternate for Errol Spence on the 2012 Olympic squad. He was now an “opponent”, or the “B-side” of a matchup, no longer the one being built up, but the fodder for those whose careers were being invested in. He knew he still had lots of fight to give, that a quick loss was not indicative of who he truly was, but perceptions become reality in boxing. There’d be no more soft touches; he’d have to prove everyone wrong by beating guys who are expected to beat him.
“My problem was, when I was young and undefeated, I took winning for granted. I said I’m the undefeated guy, I’m the favorite, I’m on the A-side, I’m gonna win. I didn’t necessarily think ‘well this guy on the B-side is coming to take what I have.’ I didn’t have that level of hunger and determination. It wasn’t until I got those two losses and switched over to the B-side that I,” said the junior middleweight Day (16-2-1, 6 knockouts) before collecting his words.
“I learned that life is not a joke, you can be on top of the world one day and be down the next.”
His ten-round fight this Saturday against Ismail Iliev (11-0-1, 3 KOs) at the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas is far down the card beneath three world title fights on ESPN+, but it’s a long way from where he had been a few years ago.
After one comeback win, Day faced Lithuanian Virgilijus Stapulionis in November of 2016 on a card run by Stapulionis’ promoter Main Events. Day was dominant, earning the unanimous decision win. Then, a few months later, Day received an offer to come in as the opponent against Eric Walker, an undefeated prospect promoted by DiBella Entertainment, the promoter that had signed him after his pro debut, then cut him after his second loss.
Day earned that win, again by unanimous decision, and then in his next fight defeated a once-beaten Premier Boxing Champions prospect Kyrone Davis by the same verdict.
“When I was on the B-side I developed that hunger. I was fighting guys on the A-side who were prospects and I was coming to eat their lunch and take their opportunity and steal their glory and steal their shine, because maybe they were making the same mistake I made of taking things for granted, that they were gonna easily get by me,” said Day.
The streak did not go unnoticed by Lou DiBella. Among the fighters on his roster is Tevin Farmer, another hard luck boxer who overcame early losses before becoming a champion, and the New York-based promoter re-signed Day for a second go-around.
“I’m the kind of guy that believes, so what if you lose, if you’re talented and you work hard and you get yourself back on track,” said DiBella.
Now, instead of being seen as damaged goods, the challenge was getting other fighters to risk their position against Day.
“When you have a couple of losses and you’re a really good fighter, these undefeated guys, particularly the ones who can’t fight much, they don’t want to take the risk of fighting a guy with a couple of blemishes on his record when that guy is high risk,” said DiBella.
For Day, 2016 was a rebuilding year, not just in the ring but outside it as well. Early on, Day earned his associate’s degree in Food and Nutrition. Three months after the loss to Garcia, in February of 2016, he enrolled in online courses at Kaplan University (now known as Purdue University Global) and earned his bachelor’s degree in health and wellness a little over a year later.
“I knew that I was destined to get back to where I was but in boxing you also have to deal with the business side of things. Once you start taking losses, the fights slow up which means the paydays slow up and your bank account slows up and I said I don’t want to live my life with this kind of uncertainty,” said Day, who also spent three camps in Japan as a sparring partner for Ryota Murata.
“I said you know what, let me just rebuild and get my degree in case this boxing thing doesn’t turn out the way I want it to. Then I have something to fall back on. It’s not that I didn’t believe in myself, it was, when am I gonna get another fight? Will it be for the right pay? Let me get myself some certainty because boxing doesn’t have certainty.”
Another person who believed in Day was Joe Higgins, his manager/trainer who first put gloves on him as a teenager. Higgins, a retired New York City firefighter and the head coach at the Freeport PAL, had lived across the street from Day’s family and remembers the day when Patrick’s mother first brought him home from the hospital. Higgins describes Day as an “All-American Haitian-American” and looks at him like he’s another one of his sons.
Day had been an honor roll student in high school but never fit in with any of the sports that were being offered. The sport of boxing, the idea of fighting technically instead of recklessly like in the schoolyards, had piqued his curiosity and he began hitting the punching bag in Higgins’ garage at age 14. He may not have caught on quickly with other sports, but he developed a knack for boxing pretty fast, winning the Junior Olympics and Junior Metros in his first year, Higgins says, en route to winning every significant title in New York City.
He believes Day is ready for anyone in the division, from Jermell Charlo to Erickson Lubin or Jaime Munguia, if he’s given the chance.
“He might be the guy coming up the rearview mirror that everyone’s napping on,” said Higgins.
“There was a world championship fight between Jaime Munguia and Takashi Inoue and that fight was terrible,” said Day. “I couldn’t believe this fight is for a world title at 154. These guys look like garbage.”
But before he can get in there with them, Day first has to get by Iliev, a 25-year-old Russian making his U.S. debut. Iliev, who is rated no. 13 by the WBC, is a stablemate of Isa Chaniev, who fights another DiBella fighter Richard Commey for the vacant IBF lightweight title higher up on the card.
“I’ve gotten a good look at him,” said Higgins. “He’s an aggressive guy, he comes forward, he’s beaten some good guys, he comes from Russia which means he could have how many amateur fights. We’re not treating this guy’s likely. We think Pat will be too fluid for him.”
“I’m just expecting to beat him, nothing more to it,” said Day. “He’s been matched up very easily, he hasn’t fought anybody. The one big win he had, he fought a guy who had just been knocked out. I’m just confident that I’m gonna dismantle this guy and I’m better than him in every sense.”
DiBella’s hope is that a win, which would add a minor IBF belt to the regional WBC strap Day currently holds, boosts him into the top 15 with the sanctioning bodies and that he appears more attractive to the top 154-pounders looking for someone to face in New York City or Long Island.
“There’s loads of fights at 154 that he would take in two seconds. Any title shot, a fight with a Lubin, I know he was chomping at the bit after Munguia’s last fight but he can’t really look too far ahead,” said DiBella, adding that Iliev is “no stooge.”
“It’s free game after I get this win,” said Day. “Anyone in the top 10 or the top 15, I just want my shot at a world title and this is the year that I do that.”
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at [email protected].