Monday, April 03, 2006

Boxing Day | by Pat

Tom Zbikowski beat his roommate Jeff Samardzija to the professional athlete punch last week by officially turning pro as a boxer. At a press conference in Madison Square Garden, Zbikowski was introduced to the press as the future undercard fighter for the June 10th Cotto/Malignaggi fight at the Garden. His opponent hasn't been announced yet, but it might be one of these guys.

To end any Irish fan worry, the fight has been cleared by the NCAA as long as Zbikowski doesn't endorse any products and Weis has added his support for the venture.

"I think with any of our kids here, when you're looking at each situation as its own separate entity, I think that you always have to make sure that you take care of Notre Dame first," Weis said. "But you've got to be realistic. And in this situation, which was a very unusual situation, to take this opportunity away from him would have been the wrong thing to do."
Once spring practice has ended, Zbikowski will begin training for his pro debut, as well as a charity boxing event at the Aragon Ballroom on May 20th. In addition to working out at Cris Carter's Fast Program in Florida, Tommy will spend two weeks in New York working with Muhammed Ali's former trainer, Angelo Dundee.

Another one of Zbikowski's trainers, Sam Colonna, thinks that if football doesn't work out, that TZ has a future in the ring.
He's got all the tools,'' Colonna said. ''He's got very fast hands, but I think he would have to fight cruiserweight instead of heavyweight. His body structure is not that big, and heavyweights now are going 6-5 and 240 pounds.

''As a cruiserweight, he would do well. He's quick and has power in each hand. And he's well-balanced. He's got what it takes to do something. He's built like Evander Holyfield, and he has a lot of experience despite the fact he hasn't been doing this full time.''
Still, football is the most likely career in the immediate future and Zbikowski has a message for those fans fretting about a boxing injury impacting his play on the football field.
"I'm not going to get hurt," Zbikowski said. "Just tell them to look at the size of my head. They can check my X-rays to see how thick my skull is. Nothing's going to happen."
As for that future football career, more quotes that came out of the boxing press conference further speculation that Zbikowski most likely won't be around South Bend after this season.
'If I'm going to be a first- or second-rounder [in the 2007 NFL draft], I'm definitely going to go towards football,'' said Zbikowski, who was introduced at the news conference while the ND fight song played in the background. ''But boxing has always been a part of me. If I can't play football, I'm going to do boxing.
According to Weis, TZ is on track to graduate with the rest of his senior class so it's looking like Zbikowski will put his name in the draft next year assuming he feels he will be drafted in the first few rounds. Obviously a lot can happen in a year's time, but right now the current thought is that the first few rounds are exactly where he will get drafted.
Two NFL scouts, speaking on the condition of anonymity, are optimistic about Zbikowski's future in the NFL.

''I've seen [Notre Dame] a lot, and I love that kid,'' one scout said. ''He's definitely in the first two rounds, because we'd never let him get by us in the second.''
Irish fans will get to watch Tommy in the ring on Pay-Per-View in June but I can't really imagine him boxing much more in the near future due to his potential NFL career. He'll probably try to find his way back into the ring after his pro football days are over, but years in the NFL take a toll on an athlete so I can't blame Zibby at all for taking the shot to fight professionally now. You can't pass up an opportunity like this. His dad said it best.
"For Tommy to be a crotchety old man sitting in the corner of the bar someday and be able to say he fought in the Garden is something special."