By Lem Satterfield
Cruiserweight Tom Zbikowski is expected to begin working out at Detroit's Kronk Gym next Wednesday alongside former WBC interim light heavweight titlist Chad Dawson, according to legendary trainer, Manny Steward, who works with both fighters.
The 26-year-old Zbikowski will be after his third straight victory with as many knockouts at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City when he meets Caleb Grummet (0-0-1) of Lake Odessa, Michigan, on the under card of Saturday night's main event featuring WBA and IBF featherweight champion, Yuriorkis Gamboa of Cuba, against WBA interim-super featherweight king Jorge Solis of Mexico.
Grummet represents Steward's first time working with Zbikowski, who is coming off of a March 12, first-round knockout of Richard Bryant at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a clash that took place on the under card of a 12th-round knockout of ex-champion, Ricardo Mayorga by WBA junior middleweight belt-holder, Miguel Cotto.
Cotto is also trained by Steward, who is known for handling Thomas Hearns, Lennox Lewis and WBO, IBF and IBO heavyweight king, Wladimir Klitschko.
A safety with the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, Zbikowski's ended a five-year absence from the ring by defeating Bryant, this, in the wake of the NFL owners and players association being locked in talks to sign a new collective bargaining agreement.
The NFL-player negotiations have place the league's season on hiatus.
Zbikowski made his professional debut while still a Notre Dame football player in June of 2006 when he stopped Robert Bell in 49 seconds at New York's Madison Square Garden.
Steward said that he began training Zbikowski a few days prior to Cotto's victory over Mayorga after the 6-foot heavyweight walked in on a workout involving Steward and Cotto.
"When I was in Las Vegas training Miguel Cotto at the Top Rank Gym, you know. Nobody was there to train but Cotto," said Steward. "We were in the midst of our private time from, like, 1 p.m. to like, 3 p.m., and this guy comes in and asks if this other guy could come in and train with us."
It was then that Steward was told that "this other guy" was Zbikowski, who, in fact, had met Steward years ago when Zbikowski was a teen-aged amateur.
"They said, 'Well, the guy says that he knows you from when he was like 10 or 12 years old.' Then he [Zbikowski] showed me this photo, you know, of me and him together all those year ago. So then, I remembered him," said Steward.
"So I trained him for about four days there, along with Miguel," said Steward. "And I was amazed at how good his footwork was and I was like, 'You know, he can box like a boxer, and not just a football player.'"
Later, Zbikowski informed Steward that he idolized fighters such as Thomas Hearns, 'Marvelous' Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran and Pernell Whitaker.
"He told me that Hearns, Hagler and Leonard, they're his favorite fighters. I was immediately impressed with his balance and his rhythm. And, you know, his timing is very good," said Steward.
"Tommy has the rhythm of a black fighter, and, of course, he spent a lot of his amateur career boxing around them growing up near Chicago. I mean, when most of the football players try to box, they're not that mobile," said Steward. "But Tommy's in the ring throwing the nice jab and coming back with a right hand over the top. So I'm like, 'where in the f**k are you learning all of this from?'"
The 28-year-old Dawson (29-1, 17 KOs) will also be in his first bout under Steward on May 21 when he meets 32-year-old contender Adrian Diaconu (27-2, 15 KOs) of Canada.
Dawson-Diaconu will take place on the under card of a main event rematching 28-year-old WBC king Jean Pascal (26-1-1, 16 KOs) and 46-year-old Bernard Hopkins (51-5-2, 32 KOs) at Bell Centre in Montreal.
Dawson is attempting to rebound from August's 11th-round, technical decision loss to Pascal, who is coming off of December's draw with Hopkins.
"I'll be continuing to work with Tommy, and next week, he'll come into Detroit and start boxing with Chad Dawson at the Kronk. Chad will be in here on Wednesday training for that May 21 fight," said Steward.
"The next few weeks, we'll see if Tommy demonstrates that he can box on the same or similar level with Chad Dawson," said Steward. "Chad is a man who, to me, still is among the best light heavyweights in the world. So we will see how Tommy does against him and some of the other Kronk fighters that we have there. Then, we'll be able to know how he can do with world class fighters."