“I got into boxing from my older brother, he got into boxing from my uncles, and my uncles got into boxing from my grandfather, so you could say it’s a family tradition,” said Lee in a recent interview with Round By Round Boxing.
A resident of California’s Coachella Valley and a son to a Mexican mother and a Korean father, family, and boxing have always gone hand in hand for Lee. Not only was he introduced to the sweet science by those who bared his name before him, but he’s been trained and guided by his father, Bobby, since the beginning.
“Well, I know for sure that no one is going to take care of me and give me a full 110% like my father, so it’s very important to me,” said Lee.
“What I tell people is, the student should always respect his teacher, and the son should always respect his father.”
While Bobby was never a boxer himself, he’s spent years educating himself through endless research and film study to hone his craft as a trainer. And for quite some time now, the results have shown in the performances of his unbeaten son.
Although it was, at times, an arduous road, Lee quickly found success in the ring. Inspired by legends like Floyd Mayweather, Aaron Pryor, Pernell Whittaker, and James Toney, Lee had his first fight at 8 years old and then competed over 200 times as an amateur, winning four junior Golden Gloves championships.
“It’s given me a lot of experience, so that’s the main thing,” said Lee of his amateur background. “You need to have the experience in the amateur game, and then you need to learn the experience as a professional. So there are two different types of experiences. I’ve already completed the amateur experience. Now, I’m leaning on my amateur experience in the pros, and I’m still learning the professional experience.”
That experience has certainly paid dividends for the young contender. An explosive puncher, Lee currently boasts a perfect 22-0 record as a professional and has wowed viewers with an impressive 13-fight knockout streak.
Most recently, the 21-year-old was seen scoring a victory over Samuel Teah earlier this month on ShoBox, ending the fight in the third round with a thunderous right hand that many labeled as an early contender for “Knockout of the Year”.
Before the fight, the boxing community expected that Teah would provide Lee with a stiffer test. Still, Lee appeared comfortable during the fight, remaining patient until the opportunity presented itself to uncork a hellacious fight-ending blow. After the fight, Lee himself said that he didn’t think he learned much from the victory, although he’s since recanted that statement a bit.
“First off, let me say that I should have never said that,” said Lee in regards to his post-fight comments. “I feel like I was in the moment, and I should have never said that because after watching the fight tape twenty-something times, I did learn a lot.
“So, I shouldn’t have said that. I still have a lot to improve on, and I honestly thought Sam Teah was going to give me a bigger and harder fight.”
Following the victory, talk has now unsurprisingly shifted to what’s next, and it’s safe to say that Lee and his team will have some decisions to make in the near future.
While he’s impressed to date, he’s done so against lesser competition. Given his obvious talent, a step up in the caliber of opposition will be needed sooner rather than later, but it’s also important to remember just how young he is.
That decision won’t be made by Lee himself, however. Instead, he’ll continue to work on his craft while his trusted team works on what lies ahead. If it were up to him, though, he has an idea of what he’d like to aim for in the coming months.
“I would like to have my hands on the IBO world title by the end of 2021,” said Lee. “But at the end of the day, it’s all up to my team and my manager Cameron Dunkin.
“Cameron Dunkin has been doing this since I was born and before that, so I feel like he has a perfect game plan, and he’s developed so many world champions, so he knows what he’s doing.”
Although he isn’t currently ranked in the top 10 by the IBO, a fight against the sanctioning body’s 140-pound champion, Jeremias Nicolas Ponce, would certainly be easier for Lee to land than bouts against the division’s two other belt holders, Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez, who will square off later this year.
Aside from the obvious intrigue that comes with fighting for a world title, fighting for the IBO belt is especially of interest to Lee, who acknowledges the belt’s place in the sport’s history.
“The reason why I want to get the IBO world title is because back in the day, the IBO world title was one of the main titles,” said Lee. “Unfortunately, it kind of just fell off, but James Toney had it, Gennadiy Golovkin had it, Anthony Joshua had it, among other legends. So I feel like I want the IBO world title because once upon a time, that was one of the major belts.”
Whether or not he gets his shot next remains to be seen. At this point, though, activity seems to be on Lee’s mind as well. Although 2020 was a difficult year for most, Lee enjoyed a stellar year in terms of boxing, competing four times and earning four stoppage victories.
He’d like to keep that momentum going in 2021 before hopefully closing out the year with a shot at a world title.
“My goal is to get the IBO world title by the end of this year,” said Lee. “I would like to fight at least three more times, but for sure two more times and maybe even three more times this year. Hopefully, I don’t have any hand injuries, and everything goes as planned.”
Like many other fighters, though, Lee is driven by more factors than one. While he expects to one day call himself a champion, he’s also interested in the lucrative paydays that come with big fights.
Ultimately, however, it all comes back to continuing his family’s tradition. To do so, Lee knows he must give it his all.
“Of course, the paper motivates me, but at the same time, my family started this tradition, and if I’m gonna end it, I’m gonna have to go big or go home,” said Lee.