Zbikowski Returns To The Ring

SOUTH BEND - People paid 100 dollars to sit ringside for Tom Zbikowski‘s fight Tuesday evening, but when the bagpipes started playing the Notre Dame fight song, everyone in the jam-packed Century Center in downtown South Bend flocked around the ring to get a picture, a glance or a touch of the Irish football star/professional boxer.

Fans in attendance waited through eight amateur exhibitions, five amateur fights, and a ladies professional exhibition, before Zbikowski made his way from the dressing room to the ring. The amped-up crowd stayed standing around the ring as Zbikowski bloodied Ryan St. Germain's nose in the first round, all the way to the final third round where a right hand rocked the Elkhart, Ind., fighter at the end.

Zbikowski was never really hurt during the three-round exhibition that raised money for the Tommy Z Foundation, Hannah and Friends, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Cystic Fibrosis.

"The crowd was phenomenal, into it the whole fight, the cheers were going," Zbikowski said. "Hopefully we raised enough money to help out these charities."

There were a lot of familiar faces in the crowd. Head coach Charlie Weis and his coaching staff along with many Irish players were in attendance. Recent Notre Dame commitments Braxston Cave of nearby Mishawaka and John Goodman of Fort Wayne, Ind. were there. Defensive coordinator Corwin Brown looked to be doing a lot of text messaging during all the under-card bouts.

Zbikowski's teammate Derek Landri led the way to the ring holding up Poland's flag. Trevor Laws and John Sullivan were part of Zbikowski's entourage that walked with the fighter. Those two were decked out in tuxedoes. Zbikowski fought in the same trunks he wore back in June when he knocked out Robert Bell in the first round of his first and only professional bout, at Madison Square Garden. The white trunks have a flag of Poland above a shamrock with #9 inside it. They say Tommy Z around the waist with a Notre Dame color blue stripe going up each side.

The original opponent for the main event, Chicago's Kevin Murphy, was a late scratch. Zbikowski got a call around 4 o'clock letting him know the details. That was the same time St. Germain got a call asking if he could fill in. This ended up being his third fight in a week. He split the first two, coming in with a career record of 1-1.

"It was kind of like amateurs all over again, you just show up looking for a fight," Zbikowski said. "That's kind of what happened today."

Just like he dominated in achieving a 60-13 amateur record, and just like he did in his knockout of Bell, Zbikowski came out quick and aggressive against St. Germain. An uppercut bloodied St. Germain midway through the first round, and the fighter took anywhere between 10-to-15 power shots that first three minutes, but never went down.

"The first round, I was catching him pretty good and he started bleeding everywhere," Zbikowski said. "I got a little over anxious. You get that home crowd, you're trying to get a knockout for everyone."

But at the same time, Zbikowski wanted everyone to get their money's worth.

"You love knockouts, but also, I don't want people to show up, wait around and 20 seconds later it's over," Zbikowski said.

In the second round, Zbikowski didn't have the same energy level he came out with, and at times St. Germain appeared to even be able to hang with him.

"Second round, I started to feel it because I was a little over anxious that first round," Zbikowski said. "The third round I started regrouping, started throwing clean shots at the end."

Those clean shots nearly floored St. Germain.

"He was a lot faster than what I thought he would be," St. Germain said. "Very strong."

"I started landing shots early on, and I thought that was going to be it," Zbikowski said, who had a little bruise underneath his left eye. "But the kid kept coming in and fought toe-to-toe, and it was a good show for everyone."

Now it's back to football for the senior safety. Spring ball begins on March 21. With that on his mind, Zbikowski fought this fight at 206 pounds, just a pound heavier than his ideal playing weight. His fight last June, Zbikowski weighed in at 214 pounds.

"I have conditioning Thursday morning, so I have to recover tomorrow and get back in for stations in the morning," Zbikowski said.

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