You and me, it might be close to impossible to get back to business, as compared to the situation for Charles Conwell.
The Ohio boxer has been on the ascent since turning pro after the 2016 Olympics. He was taking incremental steps up the ladder, and his Oct. 12 fight against Patrick Day was on paper perhaps his stiffest challenge. The junior middleweight, age 22, handled his business in sharp fashion, looking like a prospect soon to graduate to contender status.
Then fate injected itself hard into the matter. In round 10, the Long Island-based Day absorbed several hard shots in that Chicago ring, and down he went. He was unconscious, and he would not fully regain his faculties. The 27-year-old pugilist stopped breathing on the way to the hospital, and his brain bore the brunt of being without proper oxygenation. The popular and personable athlete fought, but on Oct. 16, his battle ended. Day died, and the fight game contended with the tragedy.
We felt for his family, for his friends, for his trainer, team, and his opponent, Conwell.
The “winner” admitted he stayed up all night Saturday into Sunday, praying for a miracle. It wasn’t to be.
We wondered, would he, could he, come back to the ring? This has been his vocational trajectory — would he want to solider on, and if he did, could he summon the same aggression that brought him eight KOs in 11 wins?
Yes, he decided pretty quickly, he’d fight on. Chats with family, friends, and even Pat’s trainer, Joe Higgins, helped form his decision.
I fight on, he decided.
On Jan. 31, Conwell will glove up again, in the Philadelphia area, against an opponent to be named.
And how is he mentally?
”Great,” said the boxer, promoted by DiBella Entertainment.
And yes, he admitted that pragmatics play a part in his return.
“Bills are due,” he said.
Does he think he will be the same sort of fighter, since that fateful night?
”I will be new and improved,” Conwell declared. ”Training camp is going to get me tight, all the way up. Sparring, training, running will take me up!”
Trainers Otha Jones Jr, Roshawn Jones and Charles Conwell Sr will oversee the comeback, pay attention to the little things. They will want to see how Conwell reacts when he needs to amp up aggression to answer a flurry or has a foe lagging. And will he be able to up-gear, fire a nastier flurry, bid for a stoppage?
I put it to Jones: will Conwell be able to bounce back, compartmentalize, be the boxer he was before that fateful night in Chicago?
”You gotta remember, this is a hurt sport, a gladiator sport,” the Toledo resident Jones replied. “Charles knew the possible outcome of the fight before, of what could happen. He said it could’ve easily happened to him. But with prayer, focus, determination, you can overcome anything. It’s not easy, it is very hard but we are ready, we’ve been put through worse testing than this. Since our gym (Soul City Boxing) has been open, 11 years, we had a total of six former students dying, murdered, cold blood, because they fall to the streets! Running in the streets wild. We seen a lot of deaths prior to Pat Day.”
We often talk about boxing being a pathway to prosperity for the ones not on the well-trod paths, for the ones not primed for a certain route to “success.”
High marks, attendance at top-tier schools, getting internships at top level corporations; if this isn’t your trajectory, the odds are you aren’t as likely to get to or stay in the upper class, economically and socially.
Boxing is a far from perfect agent to deliver people to upward mobility, but the sport is underrated for all the good it does people who needed an extreme immersion into a structured regimen.
This is what Conwell does, this is what he has done and won’t be put off from doing it because fate took a stand.
My guess is that he thinks about Pat more than he wants to let on right now. He was clearly stricken hard by the sportsman’s plight and battle to rebound from brain trauma. But he will need to compartmentalize, separate himself from those memories, because it won’t serve him as he seeks to advance.
Jones put it into concrete terms: the world can be cold and cruel and people succumb to temptation and get trampled in the concrete jungle. Boxing is, believe it or not, mostly a safe haven for many kids who’d not fare well running those streets.
Conwell has chosen to stay in the milieu, imperfect as it is. The sport giveth, it taketh away.
Some folks will continue to wonder why Pat kept doing it. Because he loved it, simply. It made him feel fully alive.
And it might not be possible for Charles to love it as much, the relationship likely won’t be as it was. But boxing is still Conwell’s pathway to prosperity. The path got thornier, but he edges forward, because it makes him, too, feel fully alive.