By Lem Satterfield
Veteran trainer Emanuel Steward, who works with Wladimir Klitschko, Andy Lee, Miguel Cotto and Chad Dawson - spoke with BoxingScene.com about his newest student, cruiserweight/heavyweight prospect Tommy "Tommy Z" Zbikowski (3-0, 2KOs). Steward worked with Tommy Z for the first time on March 26 in Atlantic City. After a fast start, Zbikowski had some shaky moments in winning a four round unanmous decision over Caleb Grummet. Zbikowski will return on April 23 at the WinStar Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Top Rank wants to keep him very active in the coming months.
What did you think of Tommy Zbikowski's recent performance?
"I thought this was good for him in general. I'm glad that he didn't have an easy fight. My thoughts are that it may have been a typical situation where Tommy came in where he had gotten everything so relatively easy that he didn't have a real perspective or respect for the situation."
"I told him, in the end, that what he was able to do was good, given the way that the fight went and given how he responded. I thought that he really became a professional fighter last night."
"I told him, 'You've had amateur fights where, you know, you don't get a test for your stamina like you do as a professional.' Then, as a professional, he had some carefully selected fights. To him, it probably looked like it was going to be another one of those easy fights. But, you know, everybody -- including myself -- we probably all came in relatively relaxed and believing that it was going to be easier than it was. We were all in a comfort zone."
What do you think that he can learn from this?
"Well, as it turns out, the guy stretched Tommy to the point where it reminds me and I think that it reminds Tommy that there is a difference between the team sports and boxing. It wasn't a situation where you could call a timeout, send another player in and take a break. You have to do that all on your own in boxing. You can't take a timeout in boxing."
"But I thought that Tommy fought a good first three rounds, but that it turns out that he was in there with a big, physical, determined guy who kept coming. And after three, great rounds, Tommy got tired and had to endure a tough final round."
So this was good for Tommy Zbikowski?
"I think so. Tommy has great boxing talent, but this was a reality check for him. Everything else up until this point has been like a fairy tell for him. For Tommy, this is going to be like any fight, you learn from it and you move on. If everything is a blowout, you don't learn. Tommy was the one who said it after the fight. He looked at me and he said, 'You know, this could be the best thing that has ever happened to me as a fighter.' He was very exhausted in the dressing room after the fight when he said it. but he said, 'This is probably the best thing that could have happened to me.' He said that, and I believe that he will have a different attitude after this fight. But I also told him, 'You aquitted yourself well because you held up when I've seen a lot of other fighters quit. All athletes go through this, but a lot of athletes succumb."
What will you work on tactically with Tommy as a result of this fight?
"I will work on him jabbing more. Everything that he did in there for the most part was throwing knockout punches. I needs to get back into boxing more and he needs to build up his stamina just from the point of getting in some good sparring. You know, so he is still planning on coming to The Kronk Gym here in Detroit, starting maybe on Wednesday, where he will be able to get in there with a Chad Dawson or some of the other skilled fighters that we will have there."
"That way, he will get some quality sparring. You can train as much as you want on the mitts and the pads and all of that stuff, but there is nothing coming back at you and you don't get that body-to-body contact that comes with sparring. You know, where you're having to fend off a guy who is coming at you and you're having to be blocking punches. So the answer more sparring and working more on his jab. He will be more relaxed, because these are not going to be guys at The Kronk that he can just blow over. The rest of that will fall into place. He won't go into the next fight thinking that it is going to be an easy one. The whole attitude about boxing is not going to change."