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Boxing: Ready to rumble

Andrew Owens | Friday, September 16, 2011

Mike Lee said the day he received his acceptance letter to Notre Dame was the greatest day of his life. Until now, that is.

“I think Friday night might top that for me,” Lee said. “For me to go to school and meet people that did so much for me and to give back at this point in my career — this point in my life — is pretty incredible.”

The Wheaton, Ill. native and 2009 graduate will participate in the first-ever professional boxing match at Notre Dame on Friday night. But Lee, 6-0 with four career KOs, said he does not feel too much pressure.

“My dad and I had a dream of coming back here and giving back to charity as well, so it’s all come full circle now,” he said. “So I’m very familiar with these surroundings, so a lot of people want to talk about pressure, but to me it’s the opposite. I know the Joyce, I know the community. All my friends and family are going to be here — it’s a comfort zone.”

Lee will donate proceeds from the event to the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation and the Robinson Community Learning Center of South Bend. Parseghian, a former Irish football coach, will join former men’s basketball coach Digger Phelps, who is very involved with the Robinson Center, at the event.

Lee had the opportunity to meet children from the Robinson Center this week during a public workout.

“[Meeting them] meant a lot,” Lee said. “They were all sitting front row during the public workout and they loved it. The smiles on their faces were pretty incredible. I got to sign all their T-shirts and they were really pumped up. It’s days like that that made all the days training in Houston worth it.”

Lee credits his team, including trainer Ronnie Shields, with preparing him to play on such a large stage.

“I truly believe if I fought myself 15 months ago, I would knock myself out,” he said. “It sounds like a funny statement, but I believe it to be true. The only reason it’s true is because of [the team].”

Lee will fight a talented competitor, Jacob Stiers (4-1, 2 KOs), but he said he is ready for the bout.

“I’m definitely ready,” Lee said. “If I wasn’t ready at this point, it wouldn’t be worth doing. It was seven weeks of Houston training and I’m always in and out of the gym, so we had a hard, long training camp and a public workout in the Joyce Center yesterday, and I felt terrific.”

Lee said the challenge now is to stay relaxed and remain in the right mindset for the fight.

“I think after this I go back to the hotel room and look forward to relaxing, but it’s an honor to have these people talk about me and it’s humbling,” he said. “Friday night my focus is in the ring. I’ve always been able to do that. I’ve been able to shrug everything out and as soon as I get my hands wrapped, I’m a different person.”

The fight will begin at 9 p.m. tonight at Purcell Pavilion.

Contact Andrew Owens at aowens2@nd.edu