There was a time, not too long ago, when Matt Lee didn't treat his body like a temple.
The Matt Lee of a few years back used his body like a one-star hotel room in Cancun over spring break.
He polluted himself, clouded his senses, with drugs and alcohol.
Those self destructive days are in the rear view now, hopefully for the rest of his life.
Boxing helped save the now 28-year-old from his addictions.
"I fell in love with boxing the first time I came into a club," Lee said.
He says he has "a lot of reasons" for first taking up the sport, at 17 years old.
"One reason was, I started partying as a teenager," he said, "and I experimented with hard drugs. The moment I walked into a boxing gym I knew I had to clean my act up."
Langley City Boxing trainer Dave Allison and his son Jamie helped guide Lee on the path to sobriety.
"Dave saw my determination," Lee said. "He took me under his wing. All we did was talk boxing. We boxed endlessly. He gave me a lot of encouragement."
Jamie is now Lee's trainer, and the two are close friends.
"They've always been there for me, through the worst times of my life," Lee said.
Jamie said Lee has made a lot of progress.
"He's great," the younger Allison said. "He's really easy to work with, he works hard, and he listens."
At 20, Lee stepped away from boxing to pursue his career as an industrial journeyman electrician, a vocation he still does today.
But in his early 20s, alcohol and drugs started creeping back into his life again.
So at 23, he returned to the gym to regain his focus, and health.
"I fought on and off, and I trained kids," Lee said. "I really enjoy that. I'm hoping when I'm done fighting to work with kids and give them the opportunity that I was given." These days, Lee says he works at least 50 hours a week and trains almost nightly at Revolution Gym, where City Boxing is headquartered.
"No time for a girlfriend," he said. "It's just boxing and work."
Lee's recent return has led him to the B.C. light heavyweight championship, a title he won in a bout against Mike Weise from Surrey's 4 Corners Boxing during the Clash at the Cascades 24 event on Aug. 16.
He figures his amateur record is 10-3 but admits he hasn't kept track.
He brought the belt with him for a newspaper interview early Tuesday night at Revolution, and politely declined a request to drape the belt over his shoulder; he thought it would look a little corny.
Friday, as the main event of the Clash at the Cascades 25 card inside the Coast Hotel ballroom, Lee faces his toughest test to date when he challenges titleholder Robert Couzens for the B.C. super middleweight championship.
The bout is scheduled to go five rounds.
Couzens' ring resume is scary good. Last month he defeated Jon Mauricio for the WBC Canadian super middleweight title and is now a four time Canadian champion.
"He's young, fast, and a very good boxer," Lee said, of Couzens. "He's a good looking guy, too. He's no joke. I'm the underdog for the fight."
Even so, this self-named "underdog" is looking forward to the challenge.
"I'm just thankful that I'm still young and healthy enough to still do this," Lee said.
"I'm just grateful for the opportunity to be able to challenge him," he added. "I have a short window to keep fighting for as long as my body lets me and then, when I retire from boxing, I want to give back to boxing and my community."
Lee is coming off a convincing TKO victory over Weise.
It turned out to be a mismatch. Weise, fighting for the first time in eight years, didn't have an answer for Lee's left hook.
According to Dave Allison, who organizes the Clash events, Lee's left hand struck "like a wrecking ball that found the mark over and over again."
Weise was unable to anything going and after two rounds his corner wisely called it a day.
"I never felt more comfortable inside the ring before, in my boxing career," Lee said. "My left hooks were all on target. My left to the body was a key factor in the fight."
As the fight wore on, Weise's right eye had swollen shut.
Lee says he is taking his career one bout at a time, starting against the formidable Couzens. His friends, his dad Cam, and his boss will be ringside to cheer him on.
"If I ever get seriously beat up in a fight, that might be it," he said. "But
I don't know. I've been beat up before and I always come back. As long as I feel I should be in the ring, I will be in the ring."
Looking ahead to Friday and beyond, Lee says he feels "amazing."
"I owe it all to God and to boxing, and to good people in my life who have been there with me," Lee said. "And Jamie [Allison] is the one person who has always been there for me in my life. I am forever grateful for that."
Clash at the Cascades 25, with 10 bouts scheduled, gets underway at 7:30 p.m. at the Coast Hotel, 20393 Fraser Hwy.
Tickets are $30 at door (those under the age of 12 are admitted free). All bouts are sanctioned by British Columbia Combative Sports Association
Clash at the Cascades 25 What: Amateur boxing Where: Coast Hotel, 20393 Fraser Hwy When: Friday, Oct. 18, starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: At the door
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