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Boxing: Lee excited for upcoming fight

Andrew Gastelum | Wednesday, November 30, 2011

At 24 years old, Mike Lee has fought in front of crowds at Cowboys Stadium and Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. But now, the 2009 Notre Dame graduate has what he calls the experience of a lifetime in front of him — straight from Madison Square Garden.

“Growing up watching fights at the Garden, it’s going to be pretty amazing to be there,” Lee said. “It’s the experience of a lifetime without a doubt. It’s always a boxer’s dream to fight there, so it will be pretty surreal.”

Lee (7-0-0, 4 KO’s) will continue his young fighting career on the undercard of the super welterweight title fight Saturday between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito. The former Bengal Bouts champion will face Allen Medina (9-19-1, 1 KO) in a six-round bout from “the Mecca of Boxing,” a venue that doesn’t intimidate Lee.

“I don’t really get nervous with all of the hype and the lights on the big stage. I really embrace it,” Lee said. “My whole mindset is pretty focused: less nerves, more fighting. I think it is a good thing that I don’t get rattled by all the pressure because it lets me focus on what I need to do.”

Just two and a half years removed from a cap and gown, Lee will face a seven-year professional boxing veteran in Medina. But the Mendoza School of Business product said he doesn’t put too much thought into whom or where he is fighting, focusing instead on his own technique and patient approach to each match.

“I’m just going to fight who they put in front of me,” Lee said. “I have taken some time to work on different things with former world champions and trainers, but the key for me is to stay patient and pile up wins. I just need to stick to what I do best, regardless of who I am fighting. It’s all about being patient and getting better.”

On Sept. 16, Lee hosted the first professional fight held at Notre Dame, where he thrilled the capacity crowd at the Purcell Pavilion with a victory by unanimous decision over Jacob Stiers. All proceeds from “Fight Like a Champion” went to the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation and the Robinson Community Learning Center in South Bend.

Less than two months later, Lee found himself far from the Joyce Center, training with renowned boxing trainer Ronnie Shields in Mexico City. Lee, a former O’Neill resident, served as a sparring partner to former welterweight champion Kermit Cintròn. Lee said the learning experience was crucial to his growth as a fighter.

“I [was] in Mexico for two weeks with [Cintròn]. Anytime you are in the ring with a former world champion, it’s pretty special,” Lee said. “I have just learned so much and it is all about learning different things and putting it all together.”

But Lee said he still remembers and is motivated by his blue-and-gold roots, which form much of the young phenom’s national fan base.

“I really appreciate all of the support from everyone on campus,” Lee said. “[All my supporters from Notre Dame] mean so much to me. There are those tough days in training, but when I think of all the support, it is really uplifting and encouraging and keeps me tuned in to what I am doing.”

Lee’s fight with Medina at Madison Square Garden will air live on HBO pay-per-view Saturday night with the main event between Cotto and Margarito taking place at 9 p.m.

Contact Andrew Gastelum at [email protected]