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Forgotten Warriors: Don Lee


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A noted middleweight contender of the 80's, Lee stood out with his height of 6'2 and a reach of 78 inches as one of the tallest middleweights of that time (Michael Nunn was of around the same height). On top of that, he could hit and boxed well enough, especially considering his height and size-however, he turned out to be not good enough to really succeed and win a world title, or even fight for one. His fighting alias was "Dangerous" and it sure was dangerous to take him lightly. He was also unlucky a couple times because he was stopped on cuts in two of his important fights. His greatest victory was knocking out Tony Sibson in 8 rounds in 1984. Lee was interesting because he only fought as a pro in the 80's, between 1981 and 1989. Unfortunately, in the middle of his career, he also had a brush with the law and was arrested in 1985 for several charges, among them possession of a stolen gun. Hence, his moniker gained another meaning. This is the story of Dangerous Dan Lee.

 

He was born Donald Vincent Lee on 2 October 1960, in Gary, Indiana-the murder capital of USA in the 70's. He later moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before or after becoming a pro boxer. As amateur, he won the 1981 Golden Gloves and finished with a record of 196-6. He had his first pro fight 13 June same year and beat Billy Evans by a KO1. He went 13-0 with all knockouts before surprisingly losing by TKO1 to Art McCloud 15 December 1982 in Chicago. He then rebounded by scoring 2 more knockouts, before drawing against Guy Kennedy. After 4 more knockout victories, he was matched against the vastly more experienced Englishman Tony Sibson, who then had a record of 49-4-1. Sibson was however only 2 and a half years older and at 5'8 he was 6 inches shorter, but he did well against much taller opponents usually. The fight was at Sands Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, 15 January 1984. Sibson started out aggressively and sent Lee down in the last seconds of the first round. However, in the third, Lee sent Sibson down with a flush left hook and then put him down twice more in that round. There was no three knockdown rule here, otherwise the fight would end right there. Sibson came back in the fight and then in the eight he put Lee down for a flash knockdown. After Lee rose, he was sent reeling by Sibson's assault, but then as Sibson went charging at him, he caught him with another flush straight left which put Sibson down and out. That was a major victory for Lee, because Sibson had fought Marvin Hagler for the world title the previous year and was the European champion more than once. On 8 March next year, he fought Doug DeWitt but the fight ended a draw after 10 rounds.

 

After scoring 3 more knockouts, he was matched against a major new contender on the rise-Michael Olajide. The fight was again at Sands Hotel Casino, 1 February 1987 and early on, Lee had some success, wobbling Olajide with a left hook, but was then put down in round 5 and in round 9 he was hit with two successive right hands and knocked out badly. Olajide went on to fight for the IBF title against Frank Tate that fall. For Lee, that loss marked the beginning of the end of his success. After winning two fights on points, he went to England to fight Michael Watson, back then an unknown who soon thereafter would show himself as a serious contender. The fight was on 3 February 1988 at Wembley and Lee got unlucky and suffered a cut in his mouth and the fight had to be stopped after 5 rounds. After that, he jumped up to the light heavyweight division and fought another young and hot contender: Jeff Hitman Harding. The fight was in Sydney, Australia, 18 July, and once again, Lee had to retire because of a cut, or several cuts, after being behind 78-74 on points. He then decided 175 wasn't suited for him and went down to 168, which was still a relatively new division with few big names. He did well here at first, but only against no-hopers, scoring 3 knockouts first, and then had his second best win against the slick Sanderline Williams, in a fight for the NABF title. It was on 14 April 1989 when Don Lee managed to win his only belt, by outpointing Williams with wide scores after 12 rounds, despite getting cut early on. The title had been vacated by Tommy Hearns, who was Lee's sparring partner. And then it all went downhill again as he was disqualified in his very first defense against Paul Whittaker, only 2 months later, 19 June. It was still a very eventful fight and Lee was down twice before knocking Whittaker down four times, but he hit him every time he was down, which brought forth the disqualification, at the end of the 6th. He had his last fight on 13 November that year and won by UD10 against Keith McMurray. He left the boxing career with a record of 32 wins, 27 by ko, 5 losses and 2 draws.

 

Don Lee was definitely a capable fighter and because of his physical attributes was hard to fight for most middleweights of that time, who were shorter and had smaller reach. With his power, he was also a rather dangerous opponent, however, like many other big men and punchers, he probably thought he was indestructible and then found out he wasn't. Guys who got into wars and exchanges always lived more dangerously than those who had a more technical and cautious approach. But-that is why everyone loves watching the first kind and not the second. There isn't much info on him otherwise and there is no info about his current whereabouts. He was one of those fighters that came and fought and then after retirement completely vanished from sight. His trouble with the law might've been another reason why he retired so soon, but he had already lost too many important fights and had entered a division that was just starting to shape up, thanks to the presence (albeit a short one) of guys like Hearns and Leonard. Whatever be the truth there, one thing is certain: Don Lee was and is a FORGOTTEN WARRIOR!

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