It was weird when Brandun Lee entered an eerily silent arena on March 13 in Hinckley, Minnesota.
The unbeaten junior welterweight prospect hasn’t competed before the biggest boxing crowds, but boxing in front of “probably 30” people was a highly unusual experience. Fans weren’t allowed to attend the card he headlined at Grand Casino Hinckley due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lee detailed what it was like to box in that setting during a recent appearance on SiriusXM’s “Ak and Barak Show.”
“Actually, it was a trip, to be honest,” said Lee, who stopped Camilo Prieto in the third round. “Because when I’m walking to the ring, I don’t see anybody, I don’t hear anybody, I’m bugging. And not until I got into the ring, I looked out into the crowd and I only saw like maybe 50 people, if that, probably 30. And it was just like it was dead. There’s no – the vibes are dead. I personally feel that if there was a much bigger audience, my adrenaline would have been pumping and I would’ve knocked out the guy way sooner.”
The 20-year-old Lee, of La Quinta, California, improved to 19-0 and recorded his 17th knockout in the main event of a four-fight installment of Showtime’s “ShoBox: The New Generation” series. He tried treating his scheduled 10-rounder versus Miami’s Prieto (15-3, 10 KOs) as a sparring session.
“That’s exactly the way that I looked at it,” said Lee, who extended his knockout streak to 10. “Before the fight, we had an interview with the commentators, and I told them – they asked me, ‘How do you feel about not fighting in front of an audience?’ I said, ‘I’m gonna look at this like it’s sparring,’ because during my sparring there’s probably like 20 people there, if that. So, that’s exactly how my fight was.”
Even without fans in attendance, Lee is thankful that he received more television exposure as he continues his ascent within the 140-pound division.
“I’m super grateful for my manager, Cameron Dunkin, and Showtime for giving me the opportunity,” Lee said. “Like I said, all I need is an opportunity. I’m gonna make it happen.”
Though the empty arena didn’t impact his performance much Friday night, Lee thinks that Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder would be adversely affected if they faced one another without an audience in that type of high-profile fight.
“I can’t speak on their behalf,” Lee said, “but I feel like it would affect them because, like I said, the audience is what pumps you up. The audience is what makes it happen.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.