By Keith Idec
Mike Lee will keep a watchful eye on the Badou Jack-Marcus Browne light heavyweight bout Saturday night in Las Vegas.
The undefeated light heavyweight contender could see himself fighting the Jack-Browne winner next. Lee, 31, also is interested in challenging IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev.
“The winner of Badou Jack and Marcus Browne, Beterbiev, or I could drop down to 168 pounds for a title fight,” Lee told BoxingScene.com. “Whatever direction we take, 2019 is going to be an exciting year.”
Lee (21-0, 11 KOs) is ranked No. 13 by the IBF and thus is eligible to fight for the title owned by Russia’s Beterbiev (13-0, 13 KOs). He is rated No. 4 by the WBO and No. 8 by the WBA as well.
“I will fight for a world championship in 2019,” Lee said, “no doubt about it. I’ve been a pro for eight years, I am 21-0 and rated across the board. Very few boxing ‘experts’ thought I’d make it to this point in my career. I have spent a lifetime exceeding expectations, and 2019 will see me continue that trend. I’ll win a world championship for Notre Dame and the city of Chicago.”
The Notre Dame graduate would welcome challenging Beterbiev or facing the Jack-Browne winner in the Chicago area, where Lee is a proven draw. Winning that type of fight on Notre Dame’s campus in nearby South Bend, Indiana, would be the crowning achievement of Lee’s career.
“One of the best days in my sporting career was fighting at the University of Notre Dame in my fourth pro fight,” Lee said. “We had thousands of people in attendance and a huge part of the proceeds went to two different children's charities. The only thing that is going to top that is winning a world title at my alma mater.”
Lee out-boxed Jose Hernandez (19-4-1, 9 KOs) in his last fight, a 10-rounder he won by unanimous decision June 8 at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois.
The Wheaton, Illinois, native knows Beterbiev recently agreed to sign with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. and will fight exclusively on ESPN. Lee hopes he can bring a fight against the 33-year-old knockout artist to the Chicago area, where Lee’s popularity would help a light heavyweight title fight sell well.
“Look at the 175-pound champions,” Lee said. “I doubt any of them would sell out a banquet hall, let alone a major arena. I have a history of strong ticket sales in Chicago, and when I fight for a world title, I know the city will come out to support me more than ever.”
Meanwhile, Las Vegas’ Jack (22-1-3, 13 KOs) and Staten Island’s Browne (22-0, 16 KOs) will square off on the Manny Pacquiao-Adrien Broner undercard Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Their 12-round, 175-pound bout will be the third of four fights broadcast by Showtime Pay-Per-View (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT; $74.99 in HD).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.