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Good Evening

Toe-to-Toe with Baltimore Ravens safety Tommy Zbikowski

The Jets' Dustin Keller clutches the ball tightly

The Jets' Dustin Keller clutches the ball tightly after making a second-quarter reception while defended by the Ravens' Tom Zbikowski. (Sept. 13, 2010) Credit: David Pokress

Tommy Zbikowski played college football at Notre Dame and is a safety for the Baltimore Ravens. He's also been a boxer since the age of nine and is currently 2-0 professionally with 2 knockouts. We talked to Zbikowski on the phone today after he fulfilled media obligations for his third professional fight. Zbikowski fights Saturday night in Atlantic City on HBO's Boxing After Dark card featuring featherweight sensation Yuriorkis Gamboa.

Neutral Corner: Is there anything about football that prepares you to fight?

Tommy Zbikowski: I think getting into a routine and finding what works for me. In the NFL, we go about our business, it's an every day part of our life. I am applying that to boxing. It's staying in a rhythm. I've been watching guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed study film and prepare each week. I am able to see how much film they study.

NC: Do you study film of your boxing opponents?

TZ: I will watch once to get a feel for it. But I like to leave that to the trainer and coaches. In boxing, you can have a tendency to think too much if you are watching too much film. A guy could be fighting a certain way on film because of the style of the opponent or what he was doing on that night. It doesn't mean he will do that with you.

NC: Speaking of coaches, how is training with Emanuel Steward?

TZ:  It's real good. I'm looking forward to working with him. I worked with him a little bit in Las Vegas while he was getting Cotto ready for Mayorga. He was able to work mitts with me for a little while and I picked up a ton of stuff.

NC: Madison Square Garden, Notre Dame Stadium, you've competed in a lot of great places, what's the best venue you ever performed in? Either boxing or football?

TZ: Well, of course the ones you mentioned. But I think the AFC playoff game at Heinz Field this year. It's just because of the rivalry and what that game meant. It was a big-time place, a big-time game, seeing all those players on both sides of the ball. Having all those players on one field at one time was amazing.

 NC: How far can you go in boxing?

TZ: I think I can go very, very far. I think if you are just looking talent-wise, skill-wise, athletic-wise, there's not much they are saying i cant do. It's just seeing if you can do it, seeing how you hold up against better competition.

NC: You are about 205 pounds, if you were to continue, would it be at heavyweight or cruiserweight?

TZ: The smarter thing would be to go cruiserweight.

NC: Have you been hit harder in the ring or on the gridiron?

TZ: Well, as they pile up, fighting is worse becaue a guy is very precise with where he's putting those shots, to the body or the face. In football, there are awkward hits that look like nothing, but you really feel it and there are huge collisions that look terrible that feel like nothing.

NC: How old were you when you started boxing?

TZ: I was nine. I used to watch Mike Tyson. But the more I started boxing, I never thought I'd be a heavyweight, I started watching Trinidad, de la Hoya, Pernell Whitaker. I also watched classic fights like Leonard-Duran and Hagler-Hearns.

NC: What's going on with the NFL's labor situation?

TZ: I dont know, we're just looking to get one every card, to gain as much experience as we can. As soon as that all gets worked out, we'll get back to training for football.

NC: Will it get worked out, will there be football next season?

TZ: Yeah, I think so.

NC: You challenged Chad Ochocinco to a charity boxing match, have you heard back yet?

TZ: He's playing soccer now, so I think I scared him out of the sport.

NC: What's your opinion of Mixed Martial Arts?

TZ: I think it's another art form. You have to have a lot of respect for what they do, regardless if their punching or striking skills are that of the boxer. I don't think they are. But it's very entertaining stuff. I've learned some of it for cross training. Still, there is nothing like a toe-to-toe, back-and-forth 12-round championship fight.

 Follow Bobby Cassidy on Twitter at @casswriter44.

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