Ireland doesn’t produce too many world champions, so when we do we like to celebrate it. With Lee’s stunning stoppage of highly touted and undefeated Russian Matt Korobov last month in Las Vegas, he became the first Irish boxer to win a world title on American soil since 1934.
No surprise, then, that he’s been been receiving a hero’s welcome everywhere he has gone since.
The WBO Middleweight Champion received a civic reception in Limerick last month, but yesterday got a chance to return to his home parish of Castleconnell.
Although born in Bow in London, Lee returned to the parish with his parents at the age of 13, where he joined St Francis ABC.
Last night’s event saw the champion paraded through the parish led by various local children’s sports teams and drumming troupe the Hit Machine Drummers. The procession was also lined by bearers of burning sods of turf in recognition of Lee’s boyhood home at the Bog Road.
The parade ended at the parish hall where there were a number of presentations made to Lee and his family in honour of his achievements.
It has been quite a journey for a boxer who represented Ireland in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. After missing out on a medal, he turned pro and signed with legendary trainer-manager Emanuel Steward. He emigrated to the US to live and train full-time with Steward in the famous Kronk Gym in Detroit — a gym which honed the skills of Hall of Fame fighters such as Tommy Hearns and Lennox Lewis.
After losing out to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr for the WBC World Middleweight title in 2012, many felt Lee had missed his chance. He moved to London to train with Adam Booth after the death of Steward that year and steadily worked his way back to a world title shot.
A stellar 2014 saw a come-from-behind knockout of the year contender against undefeated John Jackson and the stunning stoppage of Matt Korobov to finally lift his first world title.