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Photography by Laurie Perez

Holiday Punch

by Steve Jansen | Houston magazine | December 3, 2012

Mike Lee, 25, the Houston-based boxer whose first local bout is Dec. 15 at the Toyota Center, has a running gag with his trainer. “We joke that the goal is to keep me pretty,” he says. Well, with an undefeated 11-0 record and an attractive mug that’s all over national TV, the light heavyweight is doing a good job of saving face.

Lee’s path to matinee-idol/boxing-champ status has been interesting. In ’09, he earned a finance degree from Notre Dame’s prestigious business school. But instead of schlepping his resume around, the green-eyed dean’s-list grad went into business for himself—as a pro boxer. “I did consider a career in finance,” remembers the 6-foot, 175-pound Lee, who grew up in the Chicago area, “but I was becoming better and better as an amateur [fighter], and everything was snowballing in a good way.”

In January 2010, Lee, who had never set foot in Texas, moved to H-Town. The reason was Ronnie Shields, the Port Arthur-born trainer who has coached Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. (“He’s made me a better boxer,” says Lee, “and a better person.”) If you believe the kudos from USA Today and GQ, Lee’s Texas trek was wise. He’s become so popular that he was asked to appear in a Subway commercial alongside fellow professional athletes Ryan Howard, Justin Tuck and football great Michael Strahan.

When Lee isn’t adhering to his demanding training schedule (“so rigorous that I don’t go out very much”), he’s kicking back in his Galleria-area digs. What he’s not doing is wasting time fretting over this month’s big fight, insisting he’s eager to have his adopted hometown cheering him on. “I’m the opposite of nervous.”

Lee’s Hots
Houston’s friendly people, Family Guy, Notre Dame football, Bloomberg Businessweek

Lee’s Nots
Houston’s humidity, passive drivers, people asking if it hurts when he’s punched (“Of course it does”)