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Ben Day: “Boxing didn’t change my life – it saved it”

Emdad Rahman

Tucked in behind Chrisp Street Market is the Lansbury Boxing Club. Like the best ones, it’s old fashioned. I’m here to meet Ben “the Entertainer” Day, unbeaten Light Welterweight and owner of the Ringtone Gym in Euston. We had to be quick. Day had put on his gloves and was ready to start training. “My trainer will go potty if I don’t start soon,” he said, referring to Alec Wilkey. Day is training daily at the Poplar gym in preparation for his mid December fight against Ben Kneller at York Hall. He’s led a coloured life and each time he’s hit the canvas of reality Day has risen up stronger.

Ben’s favourite boxer is Prince Naseem Hamed: “He had everything: a showman through and through, he had the substance to back it, a big heart and a great ambassador for boxing. Naseem Hamed has inspired me and takes top spot in my favourite boxers list. I am honoured that he has visited my gym. I met him through my friend Yasin. It was a whirlwind experience. I got a call from the man himself – ‘Come and meet me in Marylebone for coffee,’ he said. Next minute I’m in a Bentley and face to face with a boxing legend. I give unconditionally to people and that’s why I believe that Naseem Hamed graced me with his presence. It’s one of my proudest moments.”

Of the modern day boxers, Day reserves the greatest admiration for Roy Jones as a hero, but Floyd Mayweather is one of his favourites. “He’s a colossus. I’ve been to the States and trained with his uncle Jeff Mayweather four times. It’s not training any more – its friendship, and we are constantly in touch.

“I have an upcoming fight with Ben Kneller at York Hall. I’m older and wiser at 36. I’ve had two white collar fights and turned pro. No one has done that. He may be a journeyman but he’s got nothing to lose. I have been inactive 13-14 months. I was about to go live on Eurosport, but my opponent was overweight so the Boxing board stopped him. It’s been mentally frustrating but I believe it’s made me stronger. Behind every misfortune is an opportunity. My mantra is that there are no failures, only temporary setbacks.”

Day has battled the demons that plagued his younger self. He has fought them, defeated them, banished them and turned his life into a success story. “I used to drink heavy. Bought up by my father, I lost him to Motor Neurone Disease. Since the age of 15 I have been alone. I have battled ferociously ever since.

“There were bad times. I got into debt and lost my job through drink driving. Every birthday, every Christmas was tragic. I totally forbid this abomination, but it was for me a great blessing. When I was 27 and rock bottom a bloke grabbed me and stuck me in a ring. I have been there ever since. Boxing is amazing. Joe Bloggs can be somebody, it’s a great leveller. Boxing didn’t change my life – it saved it.”

Day has big dreams. He’s chirpy, charming – but has a steely resolve. “I’m scared of my own desire at the moment. My ultimate goal would be a British title. Everybody dreams of a British title. The gym is taking care of itself and I would like to become a public speaker. I have completely changed my life around in four years. Not many people have been where I’ve been. It is a story worth telling.”

Day runs a wholly inclusive gym for anyone and everyone. And he means it. During the interview he told me that on that very day five members of the local public were treated to a free boxing master class as part of a partnership with the NHS. It was a reward for reaching their alcohol free target and abstaining from the dreaded drink. “My purpose is to serve humanity. I know what’s valuable and what’s not. I’d love to be in a position to give and give.”

Last Saturday, Day hosted a charity night called “I have a dream” – Ringtone Boxing Gym’s boxing show to support the fight against Motor Neurone Disease. Day’s late father died from the condition. “I saw what it did to him and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” he said.

Fight night at the London Irish Centre was frenetic and jam packed with guests and well wishers. Fighters on the bill included Peter Henegan, Maurice John, Peter O’Loughlin, Scott Valentine, Amit Ram and the very popular Neil Brailee. On the night Day said: “Just look around you. Look at the raw passion. Everybody is here to give. It’s heart warming. Every penny from the show and my London Marathon 2015 goes to support those battling Motor Neurone Syndrome.”

Day introduced me to Gilly who presented a trophy to one of the winners. “She’s my boxing mother. She nurtured me like her own for a number of years. She’s never watched a punch thrown, live or on the telly – and tonight she’s here to support this great cause. It’s a bit of magic.

“Tonight is all about heart – the paying public, my family, friends , journalists, trainers and the boxers who have all come together to make this such a memorable night. I have shivers going down my spine and my heart is welling up with pride. Thank you to everyone who made this such a great spectacle.”

Ben Day’s next fight against Portsmouth’s Ben Kneller is at York Hall on Saturday, 13th December. Tickets are available on 07816-823 586 or by going to www.ringtoneboxinggym.com Any additional donations are highly appreciated.
Find out more on www.mndassociation.org
Ben Day’s London Marathon fundraising page is at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BenDay32

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