ND safety Zbikowski to make pro boxing debut

Updated: March 29, 2006, 12:12 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

 Tom Zbikowski
Zbikowski
Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski will make his professional boxing debut at Madison Square Garden on June 10, Top Rank Promotions and a person close to Zbikowski told ESPN's Joe Schad Tuesday.

A news conference has been called for 11:15 a.m. Wednesday at Madison Square Garden to formally announce the fight, ESPN.com's Wayne Drehs reports.

"We don't look at this as a career, but rather an opportunity," Tom's father, Ed Zbikowski, told Drehs. "Who's ever played at Notre Dame, played at the Meadowlands, played at the Coliseum in Los Angeles and fought at Madison Square Garden? Nobody. It's an unbelievable opportunity that we just can't pass up."

Zbikowski, who has fought in 90 amateur fights, was first approached by a company after a recent fund-raiser for a Chicago-area high school. The company wanted to put Zbikowski, who is 6 feet and 215 pounds, on a fight card at an upcoming pay-per-view event, but the fight did not fit in Zbikowski's schedule.

When boxing promoter Bob Arum, who founded Top Rank, heard about Zbikowski's conflict, he approached the Zbikowski family about fighting on the Miguel Cotto-Paulie Malignaggi card on June 10.

Zbikowski took the idea to Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis, who signed off on it, per NCAA approval. That approval finally came Tuesday afternoon.

As Notre Dame compliance director Mike Karowski explained it to the Zbikowski family, as long as the safety doesn't take sponsorship money, endorsement money or get involved by promoting any boxing products, he'll retain his eligibility to play football for Notre Dame.

According to NCAA Bylaw 12.1.1, a Division I football student-athlete may box professionally and retain his eligibility, as long as he does not promote a commercial entity.

Zbikowski is scheduled for a four-round heavyweight bout against an opponent to be determined, according to Top Rank's Web site.

Zbikowski, an All-American defensive back at Notre Dame, received his boxing license at the age of nine. His father said his career record over that span is approximately 75-15. Last year, Zbikowski fought in the Chicago Golden Gloves, reaching the finals before withdrawing due to scheduling conflicts and a death in the family.

"People don't understand -- once you're a fighter, it's addictive," Ed Zbikowski told Drehs. "It's the fighter's mentality. And these people don't dream about Mandalay Bay, they dream about the Garden. 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."

Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com. Joe Schad is ESPN's national college football reporter.