It never was meant to be simply a way to pass the time during a possible NFL work stoppage.
Tom Zbikowski’s return to boxing March 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas is the renewing of a passion that simply wouldn’t go away. In fact, the former Notre Dame football All-American’s presence on the Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga undercard is the first of what could be several pro bouts, according to the boxer’s father, Ed Zbikowski.
“It’s not about the money,” the elder Zbikowski said Thursday in a telephone interview from Las Vegas. “It’s about earning respect in the boxing community. It’s also a great way to train for football if there is a lockout, but that’s not the primary reason for this. My wife, who hates boxing, knows what a love Tommy has for it. And her reaction? ‘Make it happen.’ ”
Tom Zbikowski will be making it happen March 12 in a four-round bout before a pay-per-view audience on Showtime. His opponent has yet to be revealed.
Junior middleweight Cotto defending his title against Mayorga is the main event, but Zbikowski -- who just finished his third season as a safety for the Baltimore Ravens – won’t lack for attention.
It will be the 25-year-old Zbikowski’s second professional fight. He debuted at Madison Square Garden June 10, 2006 while still a football player at ND. It took him all of 49 seconds to knock out Robert Bell.
His hope was to continue his pro boxing career concurrently with an NFL gig, but the Baltimore Ravens never warmed up to that idea. In fact, in 2009, Zbikowski agreed to fight for charity, specifically Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) as a tribute to Ravens director of player development O.J. Brigance. Brigance is afflicted with ALS. But head coach John Harbaugh quashed the event.
What made this fight in Las Vegas possible was Zbikowski’s contract situation layered on top of a possible NFL lockout. The three-year contract, that he signed after his days at ND were over, expires Thursday – two days before the Vegas bout. The backup safety and special teams stalwart is expected to resign with the Ravens, but until he does, a window exists to pursue boxing.
He’ll fight next weekend as a cruiserweight. Zbikowski, his father reports, weighs 195 pounds and has 5 percent body fat. The ex-Irish star fought as a heavyweight five years ago in Madison Square Garden, weighing roughly 214 pounds.
“To get up to 214 and then take it back off is just too much,” Ed Zbikowski said/ “This makes a lot more sense.”
Boxing promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank Boxing approached Tom Zbikowski about a possible return to the ring in the days following the Super Bowl on Feb. 6. Initially, the plan called for a low-key, low-fanfare affair.
The 5-foot-11 Zbikowski then began training in Miami, and regularly sparred with 6-5, 240-pound Cuban heavyweight Glendy Hernandez. When Arum got wind of Zbikowski holding his own against Hernandez, the plan changed for Zbikowski’s comeback to be part of the pay-per-view event.
“Tommy doesn’t want this to be a circus,” Ed Zbikowski said. “He doesn’t want to disrespect the Ravens, either. This is about him returning to a dream he once had and never thought he’d have a chance to touch it again.”