By: Sean Crose
Some people have tough backgrounds. Others have backgrounds so searing, it’s a wonder they’ve survived, much less prospered. Count Maurice Lee as being among the ranks of that second category. Aside from Manny Pacquiao, and perhaps Gennady Golovkin, this writer has never spoken to someone with such a challenging back story. A 7-1 southpaw from the Floyd Mayweather stable of fighters, Lee’s is nothing if not a story of perseverance. Growing up in California, the super lightweight was largely raised without the presence of a father, as his father was incarcerated. Lee’s mother also had stays in correctional institutions.
As for Lee, the young man found himself street fighting at the age of five so that adults could cash in on the winnings. Then, at the age of eleven, the pre-teen was shot seven times – once in the head. “I still have a bullet fragment in my head,” he tells me. Lee’s brother, who was with him at the time, was also shot. “I had to carry him home,” Lee says of the incident. And yet here Lee is, ready to face Joel Guevara on the undercard of the Ishe Smith – Tony Harrison card, which will be aired live on Bounce TV from Vegas this Friday night.
“I’ve had a very, very hard life,” Lee admits. Through faith, however, the man claims he was able to rise above the circumstances which could have destroyed him. “I felt that was God,” he says of his survival. “I give all glory to God.” Adhering to the adage that God helps those who help themselves, the fighter literally entered into the Mayweather universe unexpectedly several years back. “I just drove to Vegas and knocked at the door and said I’m here to spar Floyd Mayweather,” he says.
Rather than slam the door in his face, the crew at the Mayweather Gym had Lee spar one fighter after another. Then, convinced he was the right man for the job, team Mayweather had Lee spar Floyd himself – in preparation for the superfight with Manny Pacquiao, no less. Afterwards, Lee actually found himself a part of the famed Mayweather stable of fighters. “Man, he just showed me I’m on the right path,” Lee says of Floyd.
Describing the experience of being part of team Mayweather as “a blessing,” Lee points out how he’s been given quite the opportunity. “You’re constantly reminded what you can do with the sport through your promoter,” he says. So, does he see Mayweather himself much these days? “I saw him on his birthday,” says Lee, “and went to his house and hung out.” Lee makes it clear, though, that high living isn’t the only thing Mayweather is about.
“He goes in the zone,” Lee states, recalling Mayweather in training. Indeed, Lee describes the Mayweather training camp as “consistent,” and makes it clear that the words “hard work” were far from a throwaway line for the media. “He works out 2-3 times,” he says of his mentor. “The intensity of his training,” Lee claims, is notable. Lee also puts to rest a rumor that Mayweather took his last fight lightly, due to the nature of the competition. “For McGregor,” Lee claims. “He trained just as hard as he did for Pacquiao.” Something that proved unfortunate for the UFC star.
Lee openly admits that he himself hasn’t shown Mayweather’s dedication in the past, a fact that was highlighted by his last fight, a late 2016 unanimous decision loss to Cameron Krael. Lee, though, states that he learned his lesson. “I know that the only person that beat me was me,” he claims. “That’s what happened to me the last time.” It’s a mistake Lee doesn’t plan on making again. “I’m excited,” he says of his return. “I’m happy to be back in the ring.”
“My main focus is this Friday,” he says. “We’re focused on Friday.” At the moment, the Mayweather protégé is being trained by Jerry Rosenberg. It’s a union Lee is quite happy with. “We’ve been working really well,” he claims. “Great chemistry.” Lee also points out that: “I sparred a lot of middleweights for this fight.” With that in mind, Lee, who will be fighting above super lightweight on Friday night, doesn’t plan on staying out of the division. “After Friday,” he claims, “I will go back to 140.” With a renewed sense of focus and a career plan in place, Lee appears to be back on track after a spiritual detour. “My faith is back,” he adds.
So, it appears, is the man’s confidence. The fighter who was unafraid to knock on the Mayweather door is now eager to fulfill his career promise. “Obviously, I’ve had to work tremendously hard,” he says, “and believe in myself.” How great is that self-belief? If he could fight anyone throughout history, Lee says it would be Roberto Duran. “I would want to test my heart,” he says, knowing that Duran would happily provide such a test. Lee also has a new outlet through which he can practice his self belief. “My daughter was just born February 21st of this year,” he says. Parenting, like fighting, requires a sound outlook.
When asked what final words he would like to say in the interview, Lee suggests people “keep God first…anything is possible through Jesus Christ.” Like other fighters of faith (Manny Pacquiao and George Foreman come immediately to mind) Lee is able to find motivation through his beliefs. And he intends for that motivation to drive him to victory this Friday night in Vegas.