By Rick Reeno
The story of 22-year-old Mike Lee is very unusual. Lee graduated from Notre Dame in 2009 with a degree in finance. He averaged a 3.8 GPA in college. Lee comes from a successful family. Considering his academic credentials and family's business connections, Lee is the kind of guy that you would picture in some office setting with a suit and tie. But Lee is not that kind of guy. He wants to become a professional boxer.
During his time in Notre Dame, Lee fell in love with the sport of boxing. The sport first caught his eye when he sat ringside to watch his cousin trade punches in an amateur bout. Lee began to train and quickly made a name for himself in the amateur ranks from his numerous ring appearances in the Bengal Bouts, which raise money for charity. During Lee's sophomore year, he won the light heavyweight crown with a third round TKO. In his junior year he was named junior captain. Lee was named captain his senior year and won his third straight title in the Bengal Bouts.
After college was over, Lee entered and won the Chicago Golden Gloves. He beat his weight class, going undefeated against five opponents. He was exciting to watch and he built a local following.
This Wednesday in Chicago, Lee is leaving the amateur ranks behind. Two press conferences will be held to announce Lee's intention to enter the professional ranks. Lee is also going to announce that he signed a promotional agreement with Top Rank. According to Top Rank's CEO Bob Arum, Lee will make his pro debut on the Fox Sports series "Top Rank Live" on May 29 in Chicago. Lee is currently training for his pro debut in Houston, Texas with veteran trainer Ronnie Shields.
Arum admits he tried his best to discourage Lee from entering the world of professional boxing. Arum, a Harvard graduate, was impressed with Lee's academic background. What caught my attention was when Arum told me of Lee's plan to donate all of his purses to charity. I had to ask Arum to repeat his comment because I was certain that I must have misunderstood the statement, but my hearing was fine.
"I tried to talk him out of it. His father tried to talk him out of it. But he is determined to do it. He's a very nice kid. He graduated from Notre Dame. He had a 3.8 grade average. His father is a very successful business man but instead of going into business, he wants to become a professional fighter. And he wants to donate all of his purses to charity, so you know he's not doing it for the money," Arum told BoxingScene.com.
Whether it's business or boxing, Arum sees a bright future for Lee. There are thousands of people all over the country who are fans of Notre Dame sports. Arum believes that loyal Notre Dame following will work to the fighter's advantage during his pro career. Lee is already a popular fighter in the Chicago area. He might not have the boxing background as some of the other Top Rank prospects, but Arum still thinks Lee can make something of himself in the sport of boxing.
"He is going to be a very good attraction in the Chicago area, and he could catch on. There are so many Notre Dame fans all over the country. He's a big kid. He will probably fight at 175-pounds. Ronnie Shields trains him and says he has a huge right hand. He had 16 amateur fights outside of Notre Dame and won all of them. He might not have the boxing background of some of the other kids we sign but he's certainly an interesting prospect," Arum said.