Ravens' Zbikowski shelves boxing, returns to football

Safety says it's time to prepare as his teammates begin workouts

May 24, 2011|By Ken Murray, The Baltimore Sun

Fresh off three impressive wins in the ring, Tom Zbikowski has shut down his would-be boxing career again to refocus on football and the Ravens.

Despite unresolved labor issues that have brought the NFL to a standstill, the veteran safety said he decided two weeks ago to resume preparations for training camp in late July or August.

"I accomplished what I needed to accomplish and saw where I was in the boxing ring," Zbikowski said Tuesday from his family home near Chicago. "I wasn't going to be world champion in a year."

A world title remains one of Zbikowski's goals, nevertheless. His two-month venture back to the sport he grew up in was a test to see "if I've still got it," he said. Assured that he did — and that a title was not out of the question — he decided to withdraw from a June 4 fight at Los Angeles' Staples Center that would have earned him $95,000, according to his father, Ed Zbikowski.

"Tommy got it out of his system," the elder Zbikowski said. "It's always been in his blood. Believe me, you haven't seen him at his best. The rust came off the last fight."

After a five-year hiatus since his first professional fight, Zbikowski won a March 23 fight in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. On April 23 in Oklahoma, he scored a third straight victory with a technical knockout of Blake Warner. In a curious aftermath, he was suspended along with several other fighters for testing positive for the marijuana substance THC.

When Zbikowski provided a clean test immediately afterward, the suspension was lifted. Eventually, he said, he will go back to boxing, but not until his football career is over.

"I'd like to play football as long as I can, but I still believe I'll box after I'm done football," Zbikowski, 26, said.

Mike Joyce, Zbikowski's lawyer, said he couldn't predict the football player's future but did address the dual-sport aspect that has intrigued Zbikowski.

"You can't be a part-time boxer, you can't be a part-time football player," Joyce said. "They're totally different worlds."

Zbikowski began his boxing comeback right before the NFL locked out its players. After two months of training and three fights, he said he needed to change his training to be football-ready.

"It took me until April 23 to really hit my groove in boxing," he said. "That's how long it will take to switch back to football. … You're programmed to do some things entirely different in football."

Fighting as a cruiserweight, Zbikowski weighed as much as 212 pounds for his fights. He wants to play at no more than 205 for the Ravens.

There is also the prospect of competing for a starting job in the Ravens' secondary. Strong safety Dawan Landry could leave the Ravens in free agency when the league restores labor peace. Because the team did not draft a safety last month, Zbikowski would figure prominently in that case.

"I have no idea what Dawan's going to do," Zbikowski said. "He's an outstanding player, and he'll be a starter wherever he is. If the door is open for me, I plan on taking full advantage of it. Playing defense on the Baltimore Ravens might be one of the most fun things to do."

Zbikowski said he will work out in Chicago until the labor issue clears.

ken.murray@baltsun.com

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