By Lem Satterfield
Baltimore Ravens' safety Tom Zbikowski spoke to BoxingScene.com about Saturday night's cruiserweight, first-round knockout victory over Blake Werner of Oklahoma City before Werner's partisan fans at WinStar Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma.
The 6-foot, 26-year-old Zbikowski earned 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: How do you feel about your performance?
Tom Zbikowski: I felt good. I came out with some pretty decent jabs. I wanted to make sure that I gave him respect and felt him out. I didn't want to just bum-rush him. I wanted to throw some calculated punches and to fight the way that I needed to fight. I wanted to fight a smart fight.
BoxingScene.com: Did you feel like you left the ring after a more polished performance than your previous one?
TZ: Yeah, I feel like I used my jab a lot more. I think that I used my jab the whole time. I used it the way that it should be used, you know, just to set the tempo. I kept him off of me. It also opened up my left hook to the body, because I got him thinking down the middle. And, you know, that's my best punch. That's what it has been. I was able to finish him off with a right uppercut.
BoxingScene.com: What did you see there?
TZ: I had stunned him earlier with a right uppercut, and he sort of went backward. From there, I kind of slow played it just because it would have been an awkward angle for any punch. I just didn't see really an opening at that point, so I kind of just allowed him to reset.
BoxingScene.com: Wasn't that at about 30 seconds into the fight?
TZ: That first right uppercut was, yeah. And then, I think I went to the body right after that. I know that I landed four or five times to that left side and once more to the right. Then, I stepped back and reviewed it a little bit.
BoxingScene.com: Obviously with Miguel Diaz and Manny Steward not being in your corner, how was it for you working with R.W. Brown and your brother, E.J. Zbikowski, in there for your first fight with them?
TZ: That was their first time without them, but R.W.'s been in the corner for ever fight since I've been back. I've always felt comfortable with him. And he and Emanuel and Miguel all get along well. No one panics or anything. Emanuel has a big schedule, and I'm a four-round fighter right now, so I know where I stand in the pecking order. I just show up for fights. I felt comfortable in what I needed to do.
It was a big-time learning experience over the last fight. There was a lot of growth from not punching myself out and getting over that hump where all that was on my mind was knocking somebody out. My last couple of amateur fights were knockouts and the fight at Madison Square Garden was a knockout. You know, you might start thinking that you're invincible.
So that last fight was just a good humbling experience. But I knew that I needed to get back into the ring and to fight.
BoxingScene.com: How do you feeel that you were received by the crowd?
TZ: I felt pretty good, even though I fought in Oklahoma City. I saw a lot of Notre Dame jerseys in the crowd and some Baltimore Ravens jerseys as well. It was good. My family also always comes, so in a room of 2,000, I'm still going to hear them. They were making noise.
BoxingScene.com: Who was there?
TZ: My whole family. My mom, my dad. They were there. And my brother, obviously, was in my corner. We used a local cut man, and he was a real good dude. R.W. was on his own. I'm used to having Miguel or Emanuel there. I think that I won over the crowd because, you know, walking back after the fight, there were a lot of handshakes and a lot of congratulations from people who were hanging out.
I was also able to talk to Raul Marquez, who is a former world champion of course. He was calling the fight. We got a chance to talk. This is someone I remember fighting. Just being able to talk to him was great. It was easy to strike up a conversation. Everything that I wanted to be a part of my game plan was the exact things that he was giving me compliments about.
So I felt good about that, being that a very respected prize fighter was telling me that he thought that I was doing the right things.