By Lem Satterfield
Baltimore Ravens' safety Tom Zbikowski spoke to BoxingScene.com concerning Saturday night's heavyweight clash opposite Blake Werner of Oklahoma City before Werner's partisan fans at WinStar Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma.
The 6-foot, 26-year-old Zbikowski will be after his fourth victory without a loss and his third knockout, this, following last month's tougher-than-expected, unanimous decision over Michigan's Caleb Grummett that was contested 14 days after Zbikowski's March 12, first-round stoppage of Richard Bryant in Las Vegas.
Zbikowski is scheduled to fight once more each over the next two months as he tries to cram in as many professional boxing matches as possible while the NFL owners and players association are locked in talks to sign a new collective bargaining agreement and the Ravens' season on hold.
Zbikowski's could face two more opponents to be determined, respectively, on May 21 at the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa in Cabazon, Calif., and again on June 4 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Zbikowski's professional debut was a 49-second knockout of Robert Bell at New York's Madison Square Garden in June of 2006 while Zbikowski still was a junior defensive back at Notre Dame.
Zbikowski graduated in 2007 from Notre Dame, this, following a 75-15 amateur career. Zbikowski was drafted in the third round and 86th overall by the Ravens in 2008.
BoxingScene.com: What are your thoughts going into Saturday night's performance following your last one?
Tom Zbikowski: I think that the whole experience, moving forward, will be useful to me. I don't think badly of it. You know, you can spar, you can hit mitts, you can run. You can do all that you want to do, but it still doesn't matter until you've gone the distance and gone a full fight or a full four rounds. Or whatever the fight is scheduled for.
I think that the last fight's experience will help me in the long run. Just to grow from that fight. I'll put power into my punches, and there will be more of a focus on muscular endurance after going through that. There will be more confidence in knowing that, after never previously having to go four rounds, that I've done it now and I now know what it takes. I can make adjustments in the kind of pace that I fight and everything else.
BoxingScene.com: What will it be like going out there in Thackerville, Oklahoma?
TZ: I'm sleeping as much as I can. There's not much out here. But I like the venue that we're fighting in. The venue is a nice little set up, probably seats three or four thousand. But that's pretty close and it will be a nice room. I think that there will be a nice crowd there.
BoxingScene.com: How many days have you been out there?
TZ: I got here on Thursday and we've been here. I have had enough of casinos and everything that goes with it. But this is the place that we're going to fight, so that's part of the process and part of your career.
BoxingScene.com: How was Friday's weigh-in and how much did you weigh there?
TZ: I weighed 197. I was at about a little over 200 after the last fight after just eating and getting back. Trying to recover and everything like that. I was at 193 for the first fight and about 195 for the second fight, and then, 197 for this one. So there has been steady growth.
BoxingSCene.com: Did you get an opportunity to look your opponent into the eyes?
TZ: I like just getting the weigh-in over. I like fight night. All of the other stuff, you know, other people obviously there's a lot of psychological warfare. But, I go with the nonchalant attitude and see how that affects somebody. Because when you get a guy that's all in your face, you know he's pretty damned nervous.
Everyone's nervous before a fight but they don't always show it, I guess. So it's just about keeping your composure, you know. It's another day at the office.
BoxingScene.com: How was your training at the Kronk Gym in Detroit?
TZ: I think with the level of competition that they have there among their fighters and and even their amateur fighters, that you're sparring some of the top, top guys. You know, watching [former WBC interim light heavyweight champion] Chad Dawson work, and seeing Andy Lee work and seeing some of the amateur fighters who are going into the national golden gloves soon.
It's just a level of competition that you don't see in too many places. And then you have a trainer like Emanuel Steward, and you see how much of a teacher that he is. You see that everyone in the gym knows about boxing. You don't only have a few. As much as Emanuel knows, you can pick up things from some of the other guys as well, including some of the other amateur fighters that are there.
BoxingScene.com: What sort of performance is your goal against Blake Werner?
TZ: I want to be a polished performer. I would like a knockout, but I want to be polished. I want to be the slick boxer that I am, but a lot of these opponents just come out swinging for the fences. So, you know, taking all of that into consideration, I still want to show my jab, my straight punches, and to not just go crazy with hooks and upper cuts.
But I want to feel sharp and I want my landing percentage to be good, not that I ever look at punch counts. But I just want it to be one of those fights where you feel like you're landing everything.