Hometown: Wheaton, Ill. (based in Houston, Tex.)
Weight class: light heavyweight
Height / reach: 6’0” (183 cm)/ 76” inches (193 cm)
Amateur record: 16-0 (10)
Turned pro: 2010
Pro record: 5-0, 3 knockouts
Trainer: Ronnie Shields
Managers: John Lee
Promoter: Top Rank
Best night of pro career: Lee was rocked by a big right hand from an on-rushing Pablo Gomez in the opening seconds of their fight on the Miguel Acosta-Brandon Rios undercard on Feb. 26 in Las Vegas. However, Lee kept his cool and measured Gomez for a monster right of his own that dislodged the journeyman’s mouthpiece before laying him out. “All the boxing guys who saw the fight, including Nonito Donaire and Raul Marquez, who were doing commentary, were impressed that Mike never panicked,” said Lee’s father and manager, John Lee.
Worst night of pro career: Lee was understandably keyed up for his pro debut against Emmit Woods last May in Chicago. Although Lee got the job done against his counter-punching opponent, winning a unanimous four-round decision, he did not put much of what he and trainer Ronnie Shields had worked on in the gym into practice. “He was so excited fighting at home that I couldn’t calm him down between rounds,” said Shields. “He wanted to please the crowd too much.”
Next fight: Lee faces journeyman Michael Birthmark (2-5, 1 KOs) on the non-televised (in the U.S.) portion of the Rios-Urbano Antillon undercard on Saturday in Carson, Calif. The four-round bout, which is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. PT, is part of Top Rank’s international broadcast and will be streamed live on Toprank.com.
Why he’s a prospect: Beyond his extremely marketable story and personality, Lee’s a solid athlete with considerable physical strength. He’s also a good combination puncher with an entertaining style. However his main strengths are his intelligence, positive attitude and dedication to learning his craft.
Why he’s a suspect: Lee got late start in boxing (his second year in college) and had a very limited amateur career (only 16 bouts, none of which were open-class fights). And though he possesses above average strength and power, his speed and coordination are decidedly ordinary.
Story lines: Lee took up boxing during his sophomore year at Norte Dame by competing in the school’s Bengal Bouts, an 80-year-old program that raises money for needy children in Bangladesh. Lee won the intramural competition three times, and even visited Bangladesh with the Holy Cross Missions that the Bengal Bouts helps to fund, an experience that brought boxing and charitable action close to his heart. Lee had many job options after graduating at the top of his class in 2009 with a degree in finance, but he decided to give professional boxing a try after winning the Chicago Golden Gloves. Lee signed with Top Rank at the beginning of 2010 and the 40-year-old promotional company that usually deals only with world-class talent and blue-chip amateur standouts is extremely high on him. Their enthusiasm is understandable. Lee’s unique story has captured the attention of the mainstream sports media and numerous sponsors. Bob Arum, the CEO of Top Rank, believes Lee can be developed into a real contender and, just as importantly, a real attraction. On Friday, September 16th, Lee will headline a card at Notre Dame, the first pro boxing event ever to be held on the campus in South Bend, Ind., the night before the Michigan State game. All profits from this event will be donated to Notre Dame charities. Top Rank expects the event to sell out the arena (which holds over 9,000).
May 29 Emmit Woods Chicago, Ill. UD 4
Sept. 11 Alex Rivera Las Vegas, Nev. TKO 2
Nov. 13 Keith Debow Arlington, Tex. KO 1
Feb. 26 Pablo Gomez Las Vegas, Nev. TKO 1
May 6 Gilbert Gastelum Las Vegas, Nev. MD 4