The standard playbook for boxing up-and-comers with just 12 professional fights under their belt is to hone their craft anonymously on various regional undercards, waiting for a chance at a high-profile showcase. But with his athletic skills and undefeated record, matinee idol looks, tireless charitable work and Finance degree from The University of Notre Dame, as well as the almost unheard of accompanying level of national attention he brings to a sport that desperately needs it, Mike Lee is in no way your average, every day boxing prospect. A humble and clean-living Subway national spokesperson who donates most of his fight purses to worthy charitable causes such as the Children’s Memorial Hospital and the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation, Lee (12-0, 7 KOs) will take on Paul Gonsalves (7-3, 3 KOs) of Hyannis, Massachusetts, to open the worldwide ESPN Friday Night Fights telecast this Friday, July 25, in front of a huge crowd of his fans in his hometown of Chicago at the UIC Pavilion.
“I’m beyond excited. My last fight in Philly, I was excited to be back in the ring, but to come back home to fight. It’s so special to me. I fight better when there’s more pressure and fans and more attention and that’s what this will be. A national TV fight in my hometown. I’m very grateful,” said Lee of his upcoming fight. Presented by Warriors Boxing, 8 Count Productions, Seconds Out Promotions and Marines Promotions, the night of world-class professional boxing entitled “Conquerors”, will also feature rejuvenated welterweight contender Roberto “La Amenaza” Garcia (35-3, 23 KOs) of Weslaco, Texas, taking on hard-hitting and dangerous Breidis “Khanqueror” Prescott (27-5, 20 KOs) of Miami, via Barranquilla, Colombia in the night’s 10-round main event. WBA number-15, IBF number-13, and WBO number-11-rated Caleb “Golden” Truax (23-1-2, 14 KOs) of Osseo, Minnesota, will take on former USBA Junior Middleweight Champion Derek “Pooh” Ennis (24-4-1, 13 KOs) in the televised co-main event.
It’s already been a wild ride in boxing for 27-year-old Lee. The immensely popular breakthrough fighter has fought on the undercards of some of boxing’s most prestigious events. The showdown against Gonsalves will be just his second in his hometown. He turned professional at the UIC Pavilion in 2010.
“Training went well. I’ve got my rhythm back from my last big win in April (a sixth-round stoppage of then-undefeated Peter Lewison). I’m healthy and feeling sharp. I’m in San Diego training with (former heavyweight champion) Chris Byrd. This will be our second fight together and we’ve been working together since February,” continued Lee. Lee says working with a world-class technician like Byrd, one of the smartest in-ring boxers to ever lace up the gloves, has given him a sweeter approach to the science, “Chris is a phenomenal trainer and his resume speaks for itself. He’s teaching me how to hit and not get hit. I’m becoming more of a boxer and I sit on my back foot a bit more now. I don’t need to take a punch to land three. He’s taught me a lot about counterpunching and moving. Chris is all about movement and changing up the rhythm. He’s really teaching me how to get to that next level.”
Lee is expecting a challenge from Gonsalves, but having access to a boxing mind as sharp as Byrd’s has its advantages, “I think Gonsalves is a tough guy. He’s a good boxer and he’s beat a bunch of guys. You can’t take anybody lightly, but Chris is a master of styles and we’ve studied him and we’re working on both his strengths and weaknesses and my perceived strength and weaknesses. We’ll be ready when the bell rings. I want to keep beating better and better fighters and keep winning and working my way up the ranks. I want to win a world title. That’s been my goal since I turned pro.” Lee says there is no timetable for his ascent up the light heavyweight ranks and he will take each fight one at a time. “We’re taking our time. I didn’t have a big amateur career, but I’ve been getting better and better every fight and sparring with some of the top fighters in the world. I’m certainly a lot better now than I was when I turned pro. As long as I keep getting better and wining my fights, that’s all I ask of myself. There’s been a lot of spotlight on my career with the commercials and the Notre Dame background, but like any other fighter, I will do it when I’m ready. You get offers to fight people, but you want to take each step one at a time. I’ll just keep building and keep fighting tougher guys,” he said.
Mike Lee could be sitting in an office right now raking in money. But a fighter fights and that’s what’s in his blood. Lee spends countless hours training and a great deal of the rest doing charitable work for various causes. When the lights dim this Friday night, a huge crowd of supporters will go crazy while Lee enters the ring. “I love it. That’s the main reason why I look forward to coming home. I have incredible support, coast to coast, but especially in Chicago. Not a day goes by that I don’t get mail or a text from friends or family wishing me good luck and telling me they’ll be there. They’re helping me sell tickets. It means the most to me. People support me and seem to like the person I am. I have been very involved in Chicago children’s charities since I turned pro and they respect that and want to support me. Portions of this fight’s purse are going to charity as well. That’s something I’ve always felt strongly about and I’m proud to be part of it,” says Lee.