Patrick Day and Marcus Willis connected through the sport of boxing (Photos: Marcus Willis)
By Chris Robinson
This past October, the boxing world mourned the loss of a very courageous and inspiring individual in Patrick Day.
During his short time on earth, Day accomplished a lot and inspired many. Day, a native of Freeport, New York, was both a decorated amateur, as well as a fearless professional who constantly challenged himself in the ring.
His last battle in the ring took place in Chicago on October 12 of last year, against unbeaten Charles Conwell. In a competitive contest, Day was ultimately stopped in the 10th round.
Immediately following the loss, Day suffered a traumatic brain injury and was rushed to the hospital. He underwent emergency surgery at Northwestern Memorial hospital, only to pass away days later at the age of 27.
As Day was fighting for his life, there was an outpouring of support for him from the boxing community. And in the wake of his death, we were able to see just how many people’s lives he impacted along the way.
One of those individuals, Marcus Willis, still thinks about his good friend every day.
“Man, Pat was just an exuberant soul,” said Willis. “He’s the type of person, that if he walks into a room and everyone is mad, he’s going to give them joy. He has a smile that will light up a room and he’s just a very good dude.”
Willis is a very experienced fighter himself, with over 125 amateur fights and 26 professional contests to his ledger. Willis went to Tokyo in 2017 to help WBA champion Ryota Murata in training camp and that is when he first crossed paths with Day, who was already in camp, serving as the chief sparring partner.
“Pat was my guy,” Willis recalled. “He showed me the ropes and showed me around [Tokyo] and took care of me.”
Willis didn’t know what to expect with Day, but soon found him to be like a brother.
“We didn’t know what to expect of each other, with me being from the South and him from New York,” Willis explained. “Going into fight camps, you don’t know what fighters are going to be there, but as soon as we met we had a really good conversation. We connected instantly.”
During his travels, Willis took some books with him to kill time, and revealed why it’s such a passion of his.
“The reason that I read is to keep my brain functioning,” said Willis. “Especially with the abuse that we take to the head as fighters. I think we have to train your brain so that you’re not taking that much damage, so that you are regrouping and conditioning your brain to keep going on. And I think a lot of boxers could utilize that.”
Little did he know, that’s something that would draw Day to him.
In addition to his professional boxing career, Day also earned an associate degree in nutrition from Nassau Community College, and a bachelor’s degree in health and wellness from Kaplan University, so he was very well educated himself.
“Me and Pat talked about that and that’s why he was like ‘Yeah, that’s why I read too brother’,” Willis said. “And it was just a lot of knowledge. His education was up to par and we shared a lot of books. And we just talked about getting more boxers and more fighters into reading and knowing the benefits of reading.”
Willis remembers picking up on Day’s intellectuality and it served as a common bond for both of them.
“From there, we showed that we had a lot of similar characteristics and similar interests,” said Willis. “I brought a few books with me to read and I shared them with him. He kind of latched onto me a little bit more, because he saw that I was insightful and definitely wanted to brighten up on my knowledge. We connected through the sport, but even on a deeper, intellectual level as well.”
The life of a fighter is one that is both grueling and mentally challenging. The steps you take serve as somewhat of a right of passage, and there is always a common respect amongst fighters. That bond further connected Willis and Day.
“You know this game, it’s a brotherhood,” Willis said. “Even if you fight against someone, there’s a common brotherhood and respect from all fighters. We know the sacrifice and the turmoil, the hardships, and the perseverance that we go through as fighters. So, fighters are going to connect regardless no matter who they are. Because we’re a different kind of human being, a different vessel.”
Willis smiled when discussing the natural ability of Day, who performed quite well during his time working with Murata.
“Going into camp, Pat was Morata’s main sparring partner,” Willis recalled. “And he made Murata work, he gave Murata hell. Just watching him, I was like ‘Damn, this kid is good! He may even be better than me’. But he was just very elusive, had very good footwork and movement; he had a really good boxer’s IQ, and he was just smooth with it.”
After training camp, the two men kept in constant contact with one another as they supported each other’s endeavors.
“Me and Pat, I would say that we talked damn near every day,” Willis said. “And if it wasn’t every day it was at least four or five times a week. We stayed in constant contact and he became a brother. We didn’t know each other no more than two years but it felt like 10. I’m a little bit older than Pat, and I think he took onto me as somewhat of a big brother.”
For Willis, losing his friend at such a young age was truly devastating.
“I was heartbroken. I broke down, man,” said Willis. “It’s a stab in the heart. It was really tough; I couldn’t understand it. I was mad at God. I prayed more than I have ever prayed in a very long time, and I lost a brother. There’s no feeling to describe it, because there’s just so much pain, so much hurt. I broke down when I heard about his passing. It’s really like losing a brother.”
Having discovered the common connection they shared towards reading and books, Willis thought of creating a foundation in Day’s honor called the All Day Book Club.
“I want people to know how good of a person Pat was,” said Willis. “People already know, but I want the world to know, just the pureness of him. The pureness of his being. And just the talent and skill that he possessed, and the knowledge as well. I want people to know who Patrick Day is, all day.
“I want to get the word out there just so that people know, and I want his name to live forever. I want to create a foundation and get books shipped to kids that are underprivileged. Get other fighters reading on a constant basis and just making sure we read in remembrance of him,” Willis added.
Though the loss of his friend is something that he still carries with him, Willis has tried his best to put things into perspective as he moves forward.
“But what made me make sense of it is, and I have told a few people; It’s like if you see a star in the sky,” said Willis. “It would be cool to grab it and look at it, but if you had it right there in front of you, that light will be too bright and it will blind you. That’s the kind of person that Pat was. He’s a star that’s just too bright for here on earth.”
We are working directly with Marcus Willis to help spread word of the All Day Book Club. We are looking to connect with anyone who knew Pat and has a lasting memory to share about him. Please contact us at CRobinson@hustleboss.com or email@example.com if you would like to be involved in any way.