Soul of a boxer: How Cleveland Heights' Charles Conwell Jr. has overcome tragedy in pursuit of world championship

Charles Conwell Jr.
Posted at 10:02 PM, Jun 17, 2021

TOLEDO, Ohio — Boxing has been a part of Charles Conwell Jr.'s life for the past 13 years. It's his passion, his talent and what's rooted deep in his soul. But in his pursuit of becoming a world champion, Conwell has gone through trials and tribulations, one of which almost made him walk away from the sport forever.

Conwell, 23, began boxing at the age of 10, dedicating himself to the sport right away.

“This is my space, this is where I’m at, this is where I am supposed to be,” Conwell said.

His family recognized his talent and knew it was worth pursuing, so they moved him from Cleveland Heights to Toledo to learn from and train with Otha Jones Jr. at Soul City Gym, who also recognized Conwell's talent.

”The kid is very resilient, I’m telling you,” Jones said.

Conwell has dedicated the past 13 years to his most important goals:

“To become world champion, unified champion, undisputed champion,” Conwell said. “And to be a legend and leave my mark on the sport.”

On his journey to become a boxing great, Conwell has moved up the ranks, going from amateur boxing to becoming an Olympian in 2016 and now making a name for himself as a pro.

“He missed a lot of stuff coming up because he was always busy in the gym,” said Conwell’s father, Charles Sr. “And that’s been his whole life so it almost always comes natural.”

Boasting a 14-0 record, Conwell has been well on his way to reaching his goals—but when tragedy struck in 2019 , Conwell nearly left the sport that he loves for good.

On Oct. 12, 2019 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Conwell took the ring with boxer Patrick Day in a United States Boxing Association super welterweight title fight with Conwell defending his title for the first time.

Conwell and Day fought intensely through 10 rounds. Conwell dropped Day numerous times throughout the fight—but the final time, Day didn't get up.

“He didn’t move, then he started going into convulsions,” Jones said. "It just wasn’t a good feeling at all.”

Day was transported to a nearby hospital, suffering seizures in the ambulance. Once at the hospital, Day underwent brain surgery and was in a coma for four days before his family made the devastating decision to take him off life support.

At 27 years old, Day was dead.

Conwell struggled with Day's death in the following days, finding himself in a dark place.

“I don’t want to say I was depressed,” Conwell said. “I was at a real low moment.”

The tragedy struck Conwell so hard he considered walking away from boxing for good.

“I was having panic attacks when I was watching boxing,” Conwell said. “Real low place for me in my life.”

Day was the one person Conwell needed to speak to the most in all of his soul searching. Unable to do that, Conwell found another way.

“I couldn’t tell him to his face so I had to tell it to the universe,” Conwell said. “I was bottling in a lot of emotion.”

The 23-year-old took to Twitter and typed a letter to Day, acknowledging his remorse, regret and reverence for the man he just faced in the ring.

“I knew it would get to somebody that he knew or to him so that’s why I wrote that,” Conwell said.

Writing the letter has given Conwell a sense of peace and allowed him to set a new goal—winning a world championship in honor of Patrick Day.

Conwell continues chasing the title and he knows, after the trials and tribulations he's been put through so far, that he's ready to make those goals a reality.

“Nothing’s going to be harder than that,” Conwell said. “Nothing’s going to take me that low again.”

In the world of boxing, it's impossible to dodge every punch. You learn from the ones you take, adapt and continue to fight—and that's exactly what Conwell intends to do with his career.

"When the time comes to be a world champion I’m going be ready 100%,” Conwell said.

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