By Bianca Silva

When Patrick Day, 26, prepares for a boxing match, or for battle as he mentions, he visualizes the eye on the prize. He stays in shape by working out six days a week, twice a day and training for two to three hours a day with his longtime coach and neighbor, Joe Higgins at the Freeport PAL gym where he also serves as a mentor to the kids who like the sport.

The Long Island native will be fighting in what is arguably the biggest match in his young career so far on Feb. 2 in Frisco, Texas where he’ll be battling Ismail Iliev in the junior middleweight division on ESPN+.

“I’m finally in big rooms and stadiums and theaters,” he says enthusiastically. “It feels great and my mentality going into this on ESPN+ is just to fully soak it in and enjoy it. Not everyone can say that they’ve boxed on ESPN before or that they’ve fought in a big arena on a big televised program. I’m going to be able to say both these things come next Saturday.”

Day has been steadily building up for this night since he began boxing at 14-years-old after Higgins caught Day hitting the bag in his garage shortly after not being selected for the basketball team during his freshman year at Freeport High School. Rather than telling him not to do that again, Higgins encouraged him to act on his budding curiosity for boxing.

The fruit of his labor shows. Day’s 16-2 record with six knockouts in the welterweight division is impressive. He made waves in 2012 when he became the New York Daily News Golden Gloves champion and was selected to be an alternate for Team USA in the olympics that same year. Day has also fought at more prominent venues including Nassau Coliseum and more recently, Barclays Center.  

His style has drawn comparisons to Sugar Ray Leonard, who Day considers his idol and is an avid observer of boxing contemporaries including Manny Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez.

But not all has been smooth sailing. 2015 and 2016 proved to be the most challenging years for Day as he suffered his first two losses in the ring.

“I was crushed, I was heartbroken,” he recalls. “I had no clue that was going to happen. I was an undefeated prospect and then in the blink of an eye, I had two losses. It was a shock for me. I was in utter shock and I just knew that something had to change.”

He gradually began to make some adjustments in his training, a lot involving his mental approach in a match.

“I had to stop taking things for granted and expecting the win without actually going in the ring and fighting the smart fight,” he says. “I just knew that I had to utilize the best of my abilities because fights were going to get tougher and it’s not like guys were going to get easier. I knew I that I had to engage my best self mentally, emotionally and spiritually and once I started doing that, things started to shape up for me.”

In 2017, he defeated Eric “Babyface Assassin” Walker in what he considers to be his toughest match to date. Day was considered the underdog against the dominant Walker who had put a 61-1 record in the prison boxing system during his 13-year sentence and had a 13-0 record professionally. He did what he had to do to win, Day recalls of that fight.

His fighting spirit can be attributed to the pride for his Haitian heritage which he carries in his heart.

“Knowing that I have that blood and that DNA in me, It makes me stronger,” he says of the Haitian history.

“It makes me more courageous to know that I come from a fighting people and that fighting is in my blood and sticking up for myself is in my blood. And that’s exactly what Haitian people did. They stuck up for themselves.”

That attitude further aided him in overcoming what was his biggest roadblock to pursuing boxing professionally: his loved ones.

Coming from a middle-class Haitian family who values the American dream, it was unorthodox to see him stray away from going the traditional route of going to school and landing a stable job. Although Day did obtain a college degree, he opted to stay in Freeport in comparison to his brothers who were also amateur boxers but eventually left for college to see where boxing took him.

“It was a big shock when I went to my mom and I told her that: ‘Hey I don’t want to do this just to stay in shape anymore,’” he says. “‘I actually want to give this a shot and I want to fight.’ It was a huge, critical moment in the family. We had to consult many people in the family and talk. It took a lot of support from my brothers and my father and people like that to say: ‘Hey, you know what? Give him a chance. Let’s see what he can do with it.’”

Day’s determination and perseverance to make something out of himself has taken him all the way to Saturday’s match in Texas where he looks forward to relish in the opportunity that has presented itself.

“I’m just going to go out there and have fun, enjoy the moment and I know that nothing but good things will come to me with that mindset,” he says. “It’s a win either way because I’ve worked hard. I’ve worked my whole career to get to this position. I’m not going to let anything burst my bubble, no way. I’m going to enjoy this.”

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