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Tommy Zbikowski Talks Manny Steward, Fighting, More

By Lem Satterfield

Baltimore Ravens' safety Tom Zbikowski is making up for lost time.

Promoted by Top Rank Promotions, Zbikowski's upcoming schedule is comprised of fighting once each over the next three months on April 23 at the WinStar Casino against hometowner, Blake Warner (1-2, one KO) in Thackerville, Oklahoma, 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.

The opponents for Zbikowski's last two fights are still to be determined.

The 6-foot-tall, 26-year-old Zbikowski still was a junior defensive back at Notre in June of 2006 when he debuted as a professional boxer with a 49-second knockout of Robert Bell at New York's Madison Square Garden.

But after graduating from Notre Dame in 2007, Zbikowsk was drafted in the third round and 86th overall by the Ravens in 2008 and played sparingly over a two-year period as a backup to pro-bowler, Ed Reed.

Zbikowski's return to the ring was made possible by the Ravens' stalled season, this, in the wake of the NFL owners and players association being mired in talks to sign a new collective bargaining agreement.

Zbikowski's comeback has been comprised of a March 12, first-round stoppage of Richard Bryant in Las Vegas as well as a difficult, four-round unanimous decision over Caleb Grummett on March 26 in Atlantic City.

Zbikowski spoke to BoxingScene.com concerning his training, his dual roles in football and boxing and his ambitious agenda.

BoxingScene.com: Are you now training with Manny Steward at the famous Kronk Gym in Detroit?

Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, I'm in Detroit. I've been at The Kronk the past couple of days, you know, this past Friday. I sparred the last couple of days.

Manny's got to leave tomorrow, and I'm going to head back home to Chicago for a little bit, but I'll be back on Monday and Tuesday and then I'm fighting next Saturday.

So I'll fight, and then and be back here and working with them as much as I can.

BoxingScene.com: How has the sparring gone?

TZ: I've been in with some amateur kids who have been around, and I know that we'll get into it a little bit more. Maybe not so close to the fight, but I'm just trying to get in some good, solid work.

You know, those amateur kids are always working at a fast pace, which is good for me, especially since I'm fighting four-round fights.

They're not necessarily like pros, who are picking and choosing their spots, but they're amateurs who are looking to score points the entire time.

BoxingScene.com What is the atmosphere and the environment like for you at The Kronk Gym?

TZ: Man, today the gym was popping. It's not only about how much Emanuel knows, but just the knowledge among the guys around the gym. They all know boxing.

Whatever they know, you just get input from everyone. It's unbeleivable. It's all good. It's not just another gym, but it's a workplace. It's another day in the office for me, no matter where it's at.

I play with [linebacker] Ray Lewis, so you're talking about the most intimidating player in all of sports. So, as far as being intimidated at The Kronk, there's not much that is going to steer me off of my course.

BoxingScene.com: How does it make you feel that an unbeaten, heavyweight contender such as Seth Mitchell says that watching your professional debut is what inspired him to know that a former football player could be a boxer?
 
TZ: It's a good feeling, you know, because you can feel like maybe you're inspiring the athletes to get back into boxing and to get the sport back to where it should be, which is the best individual sport in the world.

It's good to know that you can have that kind of positive impact on somebody. In football, you get a lot of impact on the youth, because they all want to play in the NFL.

But when you can impact an individual who is in college, and who has played at that type of level, it's the type of feeling that is very hard to describe.

Especially somebody like Seth Mitchell, who you've competed against on the playing field. But that can be the effect of boxing, you know? You can fall in love with it once you discover what it's all about.

That's not some high school football player, that's somebody who has played the game of football at a very high level. You've got to not only be good, but you've got to be almost a little lucky to make it in the NFL.

It's just one of those things where you appreciate the fact that another football player has taken an interest in a passion and a sport that I have loved.

BoxingScene.com: When the fall starts, do you expect to be in a Ravens' uniform?

TZ: Yeah, I do. I'll be ready to go. And I'll be in the best shape and probably ready to have the best football season that I've ever had.

BoxingScene.com: How many fights do you hope to get in before the football season begins?

TZ: I don't know yet. I know that after June 4, I'm not exactly sure how much I will be able to get in, because, you know, I'm not trying to teeter along the lines of not being able to get ready to play football.

But I can't look that far ahead. I've got to take care of this fight on April 23 before I can look beyond. I have to go out to Los Angeles for the June 4 one.

That's on the under card of the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-- Sebastian Zbik title fight under card. I'm just taking these fights and that will give me at least five fights in my pro career.

That's at least four fights over this little offseason, which is a pretty big accomplishment for being off for so long and to be able to perform.

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