Andy Lee will get a chance to fight for his first title States-side when he meets veteran Alex Bunema for the vacant NABF middleweight belt in Rosemont, Illinois, May 18.
Meanwhile in the Manhattan's Roseland Ballroom the next day, Thomas Hardwick meets fellow Gleason's Gym member Kenyata Bryant [0-2] in his pro debut.
The Lee-Bunema fight is scheduled for ten rounds at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. In addition to the North American Boxing Federation [NABF] championship at stake, it's part of Lee's preparations for an imminent world title shot against holder Sergio Martinez.
Martinez holds a win over the Tennessee-based Bunema [31-7-2, 17 KOs], a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He scored an eighth round TKO over the 35 year-old African back in October 2008.
Other big names on Bunema's ledger include former world champions Jermain Taylor, Kassim Ouma, Roman Karmazin and Vince Phillips.
Lee [25 -1, 19 KOs], who won and later relinquished the Irish super middleweight crown in 2007, touted Bunema's credentials and said the NABF title match would not be a walk in the park.
"Bunema is a very strong opponent, very experienced and very tough. I expect a hard fight from him. But I'm prepared and ready to win. I want to win this title and bring the NABF belt back to Ireland," Lee told boxingnews24.com.
Said Emanuel Steward, Lee's manager and trainer: "We're looking forward to the fight on May 18. There is no substitute for the real thing of being in a competitive fight and learning from your performances.
"I like Andy to stay busy, you can learn a lot from experienced fighters like Alex Bunema and with the NABF title on the line it makes for a very interesting bout and adds a more competitive edge to the fight for the fighters and fans."
Bunema is a 15-year pro.
Tickets for the show are $100 ringside and $30 general admission. They are available through Ticketmaster, the Rosemont Theater Box Office or Fanfueled.com [search Hitz Boxing].
The Hardwick/Kenyata bout on May 19 is scheduled for four rounds.
"I see him around in the gym. He looks lean. He looks strong," Hardwick obseRved.
But after sparring up to 50 rounds with 25-3 upstate heavyweight Derric Rossy, Hardwick is unlikely to be fazed by the winless Bryant [0-2].
"I'm in good form and everything is going great," the former New York Daily News Golden Gloves titlist said.