The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Bengal Bouts: Love of boxing draws Lee to Notre Dame

Laura Myers | Friday, February 27, 2009

Mike Lee wanted to be a part of Bengal Bouts so much that he transferred to Notre Dame to do it.

The senior captain and two-time Bouts champion spent his freshman year at the University of Missouri before coming to Notre Dame.

“I came here my senior year [of high school] to watch the 75th anniversary for Bengal Bouts, and that was probably the moment that I realized I wanted to box and I wanted to fight at Notre Dame,” Lee said. “That was one of the main things that made me want to transfer.

“At that point, I’d already gotten into Mizzou and was thinking about Notre Dame, not really sure, and then I saw Bengal Bouts Championship night, with the ring in the middle of the JACC, and that kind of just sold it for me.”

With the help of his cousin, Lou Hall, Lee wasted no time getting involved with the program .

“He was a captain in 1992, and he works in my corner,” Lee said. “He kind of started me off the summer I found out I got into Notre Dame. I told him I got in, and he started teaching me. I had the basics coming in, and I really fell in love with the program and the sport.”

Lee found immediate success in the ring, winning the 175-pound crown in his sophomore year in a technical knockout that was called in the third round. His junior year, he successfully defended his title.

“I fought a very good friend of mine, [fellow captain] Andres [Villalba], and we just went toe-to-toe for three rounds,” Lee said. “I think it was the best fight of our lives. When we were done, we hugged and everything was great.”

Lee also got more involved in leadership each year. In 2008, he served as a junior captain before becoming a senior captain this year.

“When I came in sophomore year, I really had no idea what the program was,” Lee said. “I had the opportunity of being captain junior year, and it really taught me a lot about the program.”

That year, Lee traveled to Bangladesh with senior Mark Weber, who is president of Bengal Bouts. Weber was there to film a documentary about the Holy Cross Mission that Bengal Bouts supports.

“I went over there, helped out, saw where all the money’s going, what all the proceeds are doing in terms of building schools, helping the missions,” Lee said. “It was really an unbelievable experience.”

Lee said senior captains have a lot of behind-the-scenes responsibilities, including raising money, designing tickets and posters and procuring advertisers for the program.

“Mark and I had a goal of trying to raise a lot of money this year despite the recession right now,” he said. “We just had a ton of ideas, a lot of things we could improve on. I think in the end we’ll meet those goals. We’re just really excited about making the program bigger, helping out even more.”

Lee, a finance major, said he hopes his experience in Bengal Bouts can help him in the business world.

“It’s definitely a nerve-wracking experience to jump into that ring in front of a thousand people,” he said. “I hope that when I have a board meeting or whatever and I’m nervous about it, I can think back to when I was fighting and get some courage from that.”

Heading into the last week of Bouts, Lee said he feels pressure to win his third straight title, but that winning is not everything.

“Finals night is three rounds, two minutes each,” Lee said. “You train for months, think about it every day, and basically you have six minutes to do what you want to do. But when I’m done with it, no matter what, I know I’m going to be so happy I did it.”

After all, that feeling is why he transferred from Missouri.

“When you get done, and they raise your hand it’s definitely the best feeling I’ve had at Notre Dame,” Lee said.