In some ways, Mike Lee can be considered to be a champion in life.
The 32-year-old Lee already graduated from the prestigious University of Notre Dame, have appeared in national television commercials for Subway and has been battling through ankylosing spondylitis and onto an undefeated start as a pro boxer through 21 fights. But when it comes to his success inside the ring, he still has plenty to prove in the eyes of many, including his next opponent, IBF super middleweight champion Caleb Plant.
Before he is set to take on Plant on a nationally-televised bout with the IBF world title at stake, Lee has another battle before fighting the biggest boxing fight of his life: losing weight. In some ways, this fight represents a first of many for Lee. Not only is Lee fighting in his first world title fight and taking a big step up in competition doing so, but is also making his super middleweight debut after fighting at light heavyweight throughout his career.
Of course, the challenge is more than just dropping the extra weight, but also retaining all of his power heading into the fight, something that is needed when it comes to facing someone like Plant.
The hunger is increased, the training increases, you're working harder and smarter so I'm just excited. I'm bringing this excited energy to all these training sessions and that's what I've wanted for a long time.
"I mean you just got to get scientific with it and that's where I get smarter people than me around me and just trusting the team. It's really about trust. Trusting that the weights I'm pulling are where it needs to be and you're getting the right carbs, the right amount of fats, the right protein, all that stuff. So I have guys around me that have been doing this their entire lives and understand that. So in terms of preparation, everything gets ramped up for the world title fight. The hunger is increased, the training increases, you're working harder and smarter so I'm just excited. I'm bringing this excited energy to all these training sessions and that's what I've wanted for a long time," Lee told Fightful in a recent media call.
More often than not, boxing has seen contenders move up in weight for title opportunities, but boxers moving down in weight for such opportunities is seen far less often. For this fight, Lee has decided to have his training camp go beyond the standard eight weeks a boxer would have for a fight such as this one.
But all of the training isn't going to change the fact that Lee will be a massive underdog against Plant. After all, no one Lee has faced would prepare him for someone like Plant, who beat Jose Uzcategui in January to capture the title in convincing fashion.
Even in the buildup to the fight in various press conferences, Plant called into question Lee's legitimacy as a worthy contender, asking what can Lee do that Uzcategui was unable to do.
"Mike Lee is in uncharted territory. I'm curious on how he plans on beating me. Does he plan on roughing me up and trying to knock me out like my last opponent? Can he do that better than Jose Uzcategui? Is he going to try to outbox me with his hand and foot speed? Because there's no person from 160 to 175 who could do that," Plant said in a prior press conference in Los Angeles.
To some, it's a fair question given that Lee has yet to face any noteworthy boxers. After all, none of Lee's 21 opponents had even come close to fighting for a legitimate world title, but the challenger remains adamant that he is nothing like Plant's past foes.
Lee is familiar with the idea of him having no chance of winning an upcoming bout being thrown at him. In the end, the pre-fight trash talk is all white noise according to him.
"Well I'm an entirely different fighter, that's the beauty of the sport. Every single fight is different. And so it doesn't matter. I don't really care what his other opponents have done in or out of the ring. It doesn't matter. On fight night, the bell rings, it's just me and him. The best man will win so I never really look into that. I'm just telling you what my opponents say. I've been in so many press conferences where opponents either talk shit or they're dismissive or they're respectful, all across the board. I've beat them all. I plan on doing the exact same thing, so what comes out of his mouth doesn't concern me whatsoever," Lee said.
Plant vs. Lee for the IBF super middleweight title will take place on July 20 in Las Vegas as part of a FOX-televised card that will lead into the Premier Boxing Champions pay-per-view event headlined by Manny Pacquiao vs. Keith Thurman.