Ben Day

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; a film that addresses the case of a man who from birth reverses the ageing process with some sad, outlandish and bizarre happenings through the 166 minutes of Hollywood screenplay.  Brad Pitt, adored by women worldwide for his handsome looks and suave mannerisms, plays the lead character.  The whole story seems a long way from the boxing ring, but for Ben Day (7-0-1) he is happy to draw comparisons to the man who got younger with time:
“I’m addicted to boxing, I really am.  You know when people say something has changed their life?  This has saved my life” he tells me.  “I’m living this life because of what I put into it.  I get a lot of people that tell me to give up boxing.  Why?  I’m undefeated, I hardly get hit.  It’s because of my age.  But I’m under the fighting weight now, I’m Benjamin Button, I don’t put on weight!  People tell me to give up because they give up.  I’m never giving up.  I’ll see how far this takes me.  People always say give up at boxing but they never say give up at the business.  The work has made me cry, it’s made me mentally ill, but nobody ever says to give up the work, it’s always boxing – something which I love!  It’s ridiculous.”
Ben Day is a man who has come through trials and tribulations in life.  He isn’t a man that was brought up boxing and, now at 37 years old, he is flourishing not just in the ring but outside too.  It’s not been an easy journey though, and his route to picking up the gloves in the first place was one of poor decision making of his own volition as Day explains.  “I got done for drink driving and joined a boxing gym, it saved my life.  I was 27, I was drinking and being a dick.  I had two white collar fights and turned professional at 32.  I hated boxing before that, it’s mental isn’t it?!  I now have a unique style, I don’t even know what I’m going to do, my hands are all over the place and here I am – Southern Area title shot.  We used to knock out cows in Devon, that’s my practice!” he laughs.
Bovine punching aside (don’t panic RSPCA, he assures me he never laid a hand on a cow) it is his unorthodox hands that have got Day to the brink of a Southern Area title.  On December 5th he takes on Ryan ‘Bang Bang’ Taylor at York Hall for the light welterweight belt.  Taylor is a man of great experience in the amateurs, being the only Englishman to have ever competed in the American Golden Gloves tournament, as well as having a vast background in the non-paid version of the sport.  Does that faze Day?  “He’s had 70 amateur fights, that’s 70 more than me!  But that might be 70 too many.  Of course an amateur career is great but you can end up having too many fights, too many wars, too many punches.  I’m 37 but I’m fresh!” says Day with the enthusiasm of a fighter half his age.  He is infectious, fun to talk to and always light hearted.  He is also a thinker, drifting off to philosophies as we chat.  He reflects on his life outside of boxing and tells me about how he came in to his other profession, as owner of the Ringtone Boxing gym in Euston, London”
“Mick Collier from the British Boxing Board of Control was down at Rooney’s and I needed to get out of carpentry where I had lost my job through the drink driving.  I joined a gym and started to sort my life out.  I ended up building a gym for him and I was thinking ‘I’m alright at this’.  Mick asked me if I had a licence and I didn’t even know what it was, then I ended up in front of the board!  I ended up from there moving on and building my own gym.”
Boxing gyms can be notoriously hard places, schools for learning the trade the hard way.  Stories are frequent of amateurs being put through their paces with pro’s, or those newly turned professionals being thrown in with another fighter of more experience and size to see how they handle life in the paid ranks.  But for Ben Day he saw a niche in the market and as such, his target demographic is slightly off kilter to where a standard boxing gym may look to cast their client net.  “It’s full of cab drivers, gays and girls!” he laughs.  “76% of boxers are recreational users, who would neglect that 76% for the sake of the 24%?  I fucking don’t.  My gym is beautiful, the carpentry is stunning and I have it decked out brilliantly.  All the shit I have been through in my life, I have turned it around and it shows on those walls.  I have the right market in there; no kids, no amateurs and no pro’s.  I don’t even train there!  It’s all recreational users.”
It seems odd to have a boxing gym that you have put blood, sweat and tears into and then not make the most of it himself, so what reason is there that he chooses not to practice on his own doorstep?  “Say me and Joicey (Andrew Joicey) were in there beating each other to a pulp, do you think a girl in the gym wants to see that?  No.  They come because I’m a sexy bastard!  It’s a proper boxing gym, but imagine being intimidated and going to TKO in Canning Town or Fight club – it sounds intimidating.  ‘Ringtone Gym’ – it sounds friendly!”
Confident, fun and full of self flattery, Day is a likeable character.  He has a troubled past that he is honest about and has clearly used those experience to shape who he is today.  He is a believer in fate, destiny – and those two things he says are part of what has helped his gym business be a success.  “I did every part of that gym.  Every bit of paint, every inch, I did it day and night.  I didn’t even have planning permission when I started!  It was more of a risk to me to live a life I wasn’t happy with than to take a risk on planning permission.  I put every penny into that gym, every emotion, feeling and ounce of my effort.”
Ben Day
So perhaps administration wasn’t the key strength for Day at the beginning, but fate lent him a helping hand.  “I bumped into a friend I hadn’t seen in years, we chatted and he was working for the Council in the planning department and I told him that funny enough I needed planning permission.  He told me he would do the planning application for me which is usually four or five grand with no guarantee of saying yes, but they said yes straight away.  I asked him how much he wanted me to pay and he said nothing, because I had stopped him getting beaten up once.  Have some of that!   It all comes back, it’s karma” he says.
The good luck didn’t end there for the man originally from Devon.  With the framework of the gym in place it needed decking out.  Again, fate lent a helping hand.  “There’s a low ceiling in the gym and my ring is only eight inches off the ground.  First number I called and I gave him my specification, he said ‘What?  I’ve just delivered from Manchester to South London a ring of that exact size and the guy didn’t want it.’  It was an eight grand ring and I took it off his hands that day for a grand!  It’s all universal fate, I’ve been guided from the age of 15 with no mother and no father and come to London from Devon.  I’ve made loads of mistakes, I’ve fucked things up, I’m honest and have my integrity and kept going, kept working and now I’m in that position.  I had to go through all this to inspire others.”

Day is clearly a grafter, someone who is able to dig out a result when perhaps others would have turned their efforts elsewhere.  He perseveres, shows a doggedness and ability to dig in.  Clearly  these are key requirements when he steps inside the ropes, so how confident is he going into his December 5th clash with London local Ryan Taylor?  “I know Ryan Taylor, he’s cool he’s alright.  Everyone knows everyone from the circuit, I see him and say hello.  He’s a nice guy, it’s what we do isn’t it, we fight!  He’s a bit tentative to throw shots, he wants to know what’s coming back rather than committing.  I’m confident, without a doubt.  How can I be hurt by a man if I’ve been hurt by life?  What’s he going to do to me?  Nothing can hurt me.  I’ve never lost or had doubts.  I don’t know what loss is.  But look if it doesn’t work or I do lose it’s for a better reason and I will find out one day what it is.”

Again the philosopher inside of Day comes to the surface.  He switches between the language of fighting talk and that of a thinker fluently.  The 5th December show is the third fight for Day under Goodwin Promotions, to whom he switched from Mickey Helliet.  He insists himself and Helliet are still friends and the promoter even pops his head into the gym occasionally.   Day sees comparisons between himself and Leighton Buzzard based Steve Goodwin, head of his promotional outfit.  “Steve’s amazing, he’s a businessman like myself and has a great attitude.  I trust him and he’s a good man, I need people like that in my life as I share that outlook of treating people right which he has.”

Looking forward in his career, Day explains to me not just about what his goals are but also the foundations he lays to help him achieve.  It’s not just a physical sport, Day is fine tuning the mind as well.  “If you don’t say you want to go for the British title then there’s no point being in this sport.  Having a happy and healthy life is my battle, not boxing.  I’m someone that had no amateur experience and started the sport at 27, that’s my achievement.  That’s all I care about.  Reaching British level is already in my book.  I have a book!  I lay out all the goals that I have in life, I’ve even left a space on my shelf for the belt!  Visualise to materialise.  I visualise before I go to sleep and see myself in a position, then I one day get to that position.”

There are so many positives for Day at present; his own gym being a success, a first major boxing title potentially around the corner and the specific aims and goals to achieve in the future.  “I’m lapping up every moment of my life, I’m having fun” he tells me.  It is clear this is a man who is seizing the moment, wanting to ensure that the cards fate has dealt him don’t go to waste.  December 6th he gets to take a stepping stone to fulfilling his own prophecies against Taylor – after that, he may need to clear a bit more shelf space.