By Matt Vensel
10:45 AM EST, March 3, 2011
Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski, a football player by trade and a boxer at heart, is taking advantage of the looming NFL lockout by getting back into the boxing ring. Zbikowski will fight on the undercard of a pro boxing event at the MGM Grand casino in Las Vegas next Saturday.
Under normal circumstances, this sort of thing wouldn't fly with the Ravens. But Zbikowski hasn't signed his restricted tender, so there is no contract for him to violate. And hey, if the NFL won't let him play football, then why shouldn't he be allowed to compete and make some extra dough in boxing in the event of a lockout?
Anyway, the news that "Tommy Z" is returning to the ring brings back memories from two years ago when I wrote a feature on Zbikowski and his boxing career for b free daily. "Boxers look at me as a boxer who plays football, not a football player who’s boxing," he told me back in October 2009.
Zbikowski earned that reputation with an impressive amateur career growing up outside of Chicago, and in 2006, then a highly-regarded safety at Notre Dame, Zbikowski dispelled the notion that he was just a novelty act in the boxing ring with a booming right to Robert Bell's face. In Zbikowski's first and only professional bout, he knocked out Bell at Madison Square Garden in 49 seconds (you can watch the fight here).
"I wanted to show people I could fight, not that it was just a hobby,” said Zbikowski, who had 17 tackles in the Ravens' first six games before his season was derailed by a heel injury.
Now Zbikowski has found a loophole of sorts, and he is scratching his itch to get back into the ring. When we chatted about his boxing career -- he had some hesitation in discussing it -- he said it might not be over.
“It depends on how long my football career lasts,” he said. “If I’m in the NFL for a long time, I’ll have to see where my body’s at. I’m not going to beat my body to [expletive] and not be able to walk when I’m done.”
Former trainer Danny Nieves told me in 2009 that whenever Zbikowski’s football career ended, he would have a future in boxing (I guess neither of us saw the NFL's labor issues coming).
“As a cruiserweight, I’d put him up against any world champion," Nieves said.
It's been five years since he made his professional debut, so let's see how he fares on March 12 first.
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