The Beverly Review is a great neighborhood newspaper. Local School news and sports are especially well covered. Last week, NFL Star Tom Zbikowski of the Baltimore Ravens returned to the second floor boxing gym at Leo High School for an open workout that was also recorded by the NFL Network for an upcoming feature.
Tommy Z has been a familiar fixture around the halls of Leo, having worked out and sparred with Leo Boxers for years.
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by Scott Fredericks
National Football League (NFL) players are accustomed to attending spring mini camps at this time of the year, but with the NFL in the midst of a lockout, most players are looking for something else to do.
That wasn’t a problem for Baltimore Ravens safety and former Notre Dame University star Tom Zbikowski, who has resumed his pro boxing career.
Zbikowski stopped at Leo High School for a workout on April 15 in preparation for his next fight and also to help promote Leo Boxing Night, which will raise money for the Officer Eric Lee Scholarship Fund. He’s enthusiastic about being in the ring.
“The opportunity was there, so I had to take it. I’ve been watching the sport closely for the last few years waiting to get back in,” said Zbikowski, who started six games and recorded 19 tackles before suffering a shoulder injury last season. “It’s been a lot of fun, and nobody will be in better shape than me when football comes back. Every time I’ve done serious boxing after football, I’ve had my best seasons. You know the season’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when the lockout ends.
“Boxing always made me a better football player. When you go into a fight, everything has to be working together with the footwork and balance. Those are the attributes you need to have on the football field as a defensive back.”
Zbikowski isn’t just another athlete giving a different sport a try. He has excelled in the ring since he was young. Zbikowski competed in 90 amateur fights, posting a 75- 15 record in those bouts.
Zbikowski turned pro in 2006 when he was still at Notre Dame. He received permission from the NCAA to compete in a pro boxing match. Zbikowski needed only 49 seconds to dismantle Robert Bell in his first professional fight at Madison Square Garden.
“I didn’t play football 365 days a year when I was younger,” said Zbikowski. “As an athlete, you always had other sports to play. There is nothing like being on the football field on Sundays, and there are no words to describe what it feels like to get in the ring. I want this to last as long as I can.”
Zbikowski is getting his money’s worth during the lockout. He has posted a pair of victories already and has three more fights scheduled in the next three months, including a bout against Blake Warner in Las Vegas on April 23.
Legendary trainer Emmanuel Steward is working with the talented two-sport star. Zbikowski said that experience has been a thrill.
“As soon as I walk in, we just start working, and you can see why he is the best,” said Zbikowski. “This dude has a rhythm, and he knows how to get the best. He’s going to take what the fighter has and make you better. He won’t change anything, but he will find things that work.”
Mike Joyce, Zbikowski’s manager and the Leo High School boxing coach, said Zbikowski has been an avid supporter of the Leo football and boxing programs, donating money and equipment to both sports.
Joyce also said he thinks Zbikowski could be one of boxing’s best if boxing were his main focus.
“If he was boxing full time, I think he’d go all the way,” said Joyce. “He’s been fighting since he was 9 years old. He has some ring rust from being away from the ring so long, but he has all the tools.”
Joyce said the Leo Boxing Night will be held at 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W. 115th St., in Merrionette Park, on May 10 at 7 p.m. Proceeds will go to the Eric Lee Memorial Scholarship Foundation. Lee, a Chicago Police officer, was a 1981 graduate of the school who was gunned down in the line of duty.
For tickets or more information, contact Joyce at (708) 227-8425.
This is part of the April 20, 2011 online edition of The Beverly Review.