BOB ARUM: Lee, thank you. And I want to welcome everybody to the Tommy Zbikowski conference call. Everybody knows Tommy. He’s a great football player. People now begin to realize that he started boxing even before he started playing football. Boxing has been a passion for Tommy. He’s a top amateur fighter. Very impressive record in the Chicago area. And we’re delighted at Top Rank to be able to give Tommy the opportunity to make is press professional debut in Madison Square Garden. A sold out Madison Square Garden, because it looks like every seat is going to be gone based on the ticket sales that we’ve had to date. It’s a great card. And Tommy is making his professional debut, and he should feel right at home because another great heavy weight, made his professional debut in Madison Square Garden, and he’ll be handling some of the ring commentary, and that’s two time heavy weight champion Big George Foreman who will join Tim Ryan and Wally Matthews as part of the broadcast team.
So we’re really proud of the event. And we look forward to Tommy showing his stuff to Madison Square Garden. And with that, I’m going to turn it over to Tommy to make a few introductory remarks. Tommy.
Tommy Zbikowski: Thanks, Bob. I just want to once again, thank you and Top Rank for putting this together and giving me this shot and opportunity to fight at the Garden. And, you know, from what I hear, and everything going out there it seems, you know, the card is going to be unbelievable. And I hear the crowd is going to be unbelievable. So I’m ready to go. I’ve been itching and I’ve been antsy for the last two weeks, so I’m ready to go.
LACY BANKS, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Now last week, Tommy you took an exam to become a Chicago firefighter. Next week, you’re debuting as a prize fighter. You’re all ready distinguished yourself as an outstanding football player. Will there be any truth to the rumor I’m thinking about starting that you’re going to take the Bar exam next month. And then you’re going to go to Cape Canaveral to fly to be a space astronaut? I mean what’s up with all of these things that you’re dabbling into.
Tommy Zbikowski: I think the Bar exam is a little stretch. I mean I’m used to fighting and the football playing. And, you know, the fireman exam was kind of – that’s something that’s been in the family. Just, you know, my grandfather and my uncle were fireman, and me and my brother growing up just around this area. You know, I always kind of – you know, not planned on it, but we always thought if something like that came up or, you know, eventually that we would probably be fireman together, you know, not knowing that my football and boxing career was going to take off.
So – but I mean I had to stay true to where I’m from, and where I came from and the promises I made my brother and my grandfather.
LACY BANKS: If we have a pecking order of your passions, which would be first, second, and third, you know, between football, fire fighting and prize fighting?
Tommy Zbikowski: That’s tough. Man, that’s a good question. I mean the football and boxing are way at the top right now. I mean those are two that I’m most passionate about. It’s hard to say, I think after this fight when, you know, I finally get a chance to take the head gear off, and take the shirt off, and actually get my pro fight, you know, I’ll get a little better feel on, you know, which one I’m more passionate about football or boxing, but it’s hard to say right now.
LACY BANKS: And last, how fit are you in your preparation? Are you ready to go right now? What do you know about your opponent? And what kind of fighter is Tommy Z.? Is there power punches? A fancy-dan boxer or what?
Tommy Zbikowski: You’ll see June 10. I don’t want to give any tips out right now. You’ll see June 10 when I come out. I plan on putting on a good show. I’m in great shape. I’ve been probably put in over about 140, 150 round for this fight. So I’m shape. I’m ready to go fighting wise. And I’ve been doing my running. I’ve been doing my agility. So I’m about 214, 215 now, and I feel as fast as ever. So you’ll see a good show June 10.
MICHAEL HIRSLEY, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: You’ve been working with really a collage of coaches here with Danny Nieves (ph), Sam Colona (ph) and now Angelo Dundee. Who’s going to be in your corner, on fight night? And maybe tell us a little bit about what Angelo (ph) has added to your other trainers?
Tommy Zbikowski: From what I hear, all three of them are going to be in the corner. I know Danny (ph) and Sam (ph) are going be in the corner. I think, Angelo (ph) has been added. But just, you know, Danny (ph) was down with me in Miami for, you know, a week or so and just got a chance to be around Angelo (ph) and just see how many – you know, he’s gotten ready for so many big time fights, that’s good to just see the preparation, you know, the final touches that need to be done to make sure I get this win June 10.
MICHAEL HIRSLEY: Can you talk a little bit about what experience you’ve had at Madison Square Garden. Have you ever been there prior to your press conference?
Tommy Zbikowski: No. The press conference was the first time I’ve ever been to New York, and I’ve ever been to the Garden. So it was good to get a feel for what the arena was like. And, you know, kind of get those butterflies out to see the arena before. You know, I don’t want to fight night walking in, and that’s the first time I’ve ever seen the garden. You know, I’d be kind of overwhelming, but it was good just to see it during the press conference, as, you know, kind of just a regular person walking around and seeing what it’s all about and kind of feel the presence, you know, the aura of that Garden..
EDDIE GOLDMAN, SECONDSOUT.COM RADIO: I want to ask you, obviously, Notre Dame is probably the most famous college football team and gets a huge amount of attention and publicity. How does the lead up to this fight up at Madison Square Garden compare to one of the big football games that you’ve had a Notre Dame.
Tommy Zbikowski: It’s been a little different, because it’s a little more, you know, spread out, it’s a couple of weeks, you know, a couple of months, you know, promoting the fight, taking interviews and everything. When you’re getting ready for a football game, you really only got that one week before a big game, like for instance like the USC game, you know, really starting getting big, about Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that week. It’s not weeks in advance where it show up on, you know, ESPN or things like that. It’s kind of more a week to week thing. Where this is a little more built up over time.
EDDIE GOLDMAN: Is it kind of a different atmosphere in the sense, because now you’re coming in as a professional athlete? And there, even though again, given Notre Dame’s popularity, you’re still there, as a college student, as an amateur and under the NCAA rules?
Tommy Zbikowski: I’m not sure what the question was, but, you know, is there any…
EDDIE GOLDMAN: Yes, I mean how is it different being in the pros than in the college game in terms of the way that you’re treating, the way everybody is approaching you?
Tommy Zbikowski: You know, I think it’s kind of the same. You know, I think that’s what Notre Dame has benefited me as because the media and outside people kind of look at, you know, as intelligent football players that can be kind of treated as, you know, not professional athletes, but, you know, taking media questions and handle the pressure. I think that’s what has helped me, mold me into, you know, being able to handle this professional game a little bit better. Just, you know, the amount of pressure and the amount of media attention, you know, we’re on national TV pretty much every single weekend. And, you know, the media coverage is country, you know, it’s coast to coast, it’s not just the Midwest area. So, you know, it’s gotten you ready for the professional ranks.
EDDIE GOLDMAN: Do you know much about the guy Robert Bell, that you’re fighting? He did fight in the New York area. He was knocked out in the first round in his last fight by Travis Kauffman who was an amateur standout a young fighter, coming up, like yourself.
Tommy Zbikowski: Yes, that’s pretty much all I know. I know he’s two and two. And all of the fights have ended in knock outs. And from what I’ve read on the Internet, he’s planning on wearing an Ohio State Jersey, so that’s about all I know.
EDDIE GOLDMAN: Is that just to bug you a little bit.
Tommy Zbikowski: No. You know, you can do what you want to get in the – to get ready for the fight, or trying to get a little trash talk. You know, once the bell rings, I’m all business. That’s all that matters.
CARL FREITAG: A lot of the younger fighters these days, or a lot of the younger athletes aren’t going into boxing, they’re going into football. What is it that attracted you to boxing? And what do you think is the reason why there’s less and less young people getting in boxing these days?
Tommy Zbikowski: You know, it’s hard to say why people aren’t, you know, getting involved with boxing at a young age. But I was always around it, just, you know, kind of my father loved boxing and loved the fight games. So, you know, I was just introduced to the gym, you know, not necessarily competitive boxing, but just, you know, the gym. And just watching the fights. It always, you know, I was hooked on it from a young age, and it’s hard to say, you know, why kids aren’t wanting to box, or wanting to fight. They’re going into football or baseball or basketball and stuff like. But, you know, it’s hard to say. I don’t know, you know, what exactly. I love it. I don’t think there’s too many sports that are better than it, but, you know, it’s hard to say why kids don’t like it.
KARL FREITAG, FIGHTNEWS.COM: Do you love it enough to keep doing it after you graduate and maybe get drafted in the NFL?
Tommy Zbikowski: I hope to. I really hope to. I don’t know if the NFL coaches or the owners are going to like that. But I definitely will keep training, and I definitely will keep watching boxing no matter where I’m at.
KARL FREITAG: OK. And Bob, as far as non boxing publications, just general media, the fight with Tommy seems to be generating a lot of buzz, have you ever seen anything like this before?
BOB ARUM: No. Really not. Really not. I think that this is very, very unique. But I have to emphasize the fact that this is not a situation where you pluck somebody who excels in one sport, and put them in another sport. Tommy has been boxing, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, Tommy since he’s nine years old. So he has established credentials on the amateur level as a boxer. This is not like taking, they had Ed “Too Tall” Jones years ago and they made him a boxer. That’s not the case here.
This is a kid who had two passions, at least two passions, one football and one boxing. And so we’re delighted to give him the opportunity to show how good he is as a fighter, as a boxer, just the way everybody is seeing what a wonderful football player he is.
LACY BANKS: Yes, Bob, since we have you here, have you signed a multi year contract with Tommy or what? How has that shaped up for you?
BOB ARUM: Well we have a one fight contract with an understanding that if Tommy continues in boxing we’ll do hi future fights at least, the next couple of fights. But we’re really looking at this, the coach of Notre Dame said that he – because I have another show in August that I wanted to put him on, Rahman-Maskaev, the August 12 heavyweight championship in Las Vegas, but the coach said no. Obviously, he has to train for the football season. So let’s see.
First, let’s see, how Tommy said, how he’s going to do. And secondly, when and if he can continue his boxing career.
LACY BANKS: Also, roughly, give me a ball part area of what his purse might be? And what is the purse for the headline bout?
BOB ARUM: The purse for the headline bout I think Cotto’s purse is $850,000. And the purse for Malignaggi is $350,000. I think Tommy is getting, I’m not sure, I think $25,000 or something like that.
LACY BANKS: And Tommy what year are you? What year will you be entering at Notre Dame?
Tommy Zbikowski: I’ll be entering my senior year.
LACY BANKS: You’ll be a senior. OK.
BOB ARUM: Lacy, while you’re on, man.
LACY BANKS: Yes, sir.
BOB ARUM: I’ve got to tell you, you’re going to love this because I got my good friend who’s coming to Madison Square Garden, the great Gospel singers in the world BB Wyman (ph). BB (ph) – listen to this Lacy. When Tommy comes out BB (ph) is going to lead everybody in singing the Notre Dame fight song.
LACY BANKS: Oh, my goodness.
BOB ARUM: And then before the main event, he’s going to sing God Bless America. Is that going to be great?
LACY BANKS: That’s going to be mighty.
BOB ARUM: Is that going to tear the house down?
LACY BANKS: BB’s (ph) got some awesome pipes.
BOB ARUM: Yes, I know. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s a terrific guy.
LACY BANKS: Great. One last thing for Tommy. Your mother, I mean has she ever said something like Tommy what am I going to do with you? Is there anything else on your burners besides fire-fighting, football and boxing?
Tommy Zbikowski: That’s it for right now. I’ll let you know if anything else comes up, if I think of anything good. I’ll let you know, though.
BILL CAPLAN: I just want you guys out there to know that I’ve been a camp follower, kind of a Tommy Z. groupie for the last few weeks. And Tommy, I’d like you to talk a little bit about your coach’s support, and your team support. And the guys, maybe, you know, who’s going to show up at the fight? And just how your coach feels about all of this stuff?
And a two part question, I’ve watched you spar a lot of these 140 rounds, and you’re a very tough guy. And I’ve watched you play football and you’re a very tough guy. So tell us a little bit, part two about the difference in the hits.
Tommy Zbikowski: You know, the difference in the hits, boxing, you know, you kind of get those, you know, quick jaw, jaw moving punches that, you know, sometimes you don’t see where they’re coming. So they’re a lot painful than, you know, football. But also, when you’re punt returning, and you’re standing alone and you’ve got 11 guys coming down you full speed, and there’s no where to go but go full speed right back at them, it’s kind of, you know, you also don’t see hits coming from there.
But, you know, boxing at least, you know, it’s only you, you know, one other guy you know where it’s coming from. Where on the football field, you can get hit from other angles. And I mean I’m sure, you know, people have seen it on TV where I mean legs are broke, knees have shattered. You know, it gets ugly in football, but, you know, boxing is not much prettier.
And the, the support of my team, I mean I’m starting to get the phone calls now with wishing me luck and everything like that, and it’s still a week before the fight. And I think, oh god, I think the list is up to like 30, 35, 40 guys coming to the fight. And I know Brady (ph) is going to be there. Samarti (ph) is playing baseball in Kentucky, but he’s hopefully – he’s going to try and make it. And then pretty much 30 other guys that are from starters to walk-ons to, you know, players that I played with in the past. So the support of my team and the coaching staff has been unbelievable.
BILL CAPLAN: What about Charlie’s Weis’ support and his permission and his so on.
Tommy Zbikowski: I mean I love the fact that, you know, he gave me permission to do this before. And I’ve said it before, when you’ve got a coach that wants his players to succeed, you know, on the football field, and outside the football field. I know with letting Jeff (ph) play baseball and succeed in baseball it’s opened up, you know, different things for him. And with him letting me, you know, box, it’s opened up different doors for me. And then, you know, just making sure everyone is succeeding, you know, in the classroom and outside the field. It’s just – there’s not too many coaches like that, and, you know, our entire team and definitely we’ve just been blessed to have him as our coach.
MICHAEL HIRSLEY: Yes, Tommy. I wanted to follow up on your talking about working with Angelo Dundee (ph) down in Florida. Aside from giving you a sense of working with the trainer, a legendary trainer, were there any specifics that he added to what, you know, what you would otherwise bring to the ring? Anything that he said, let’s focus on this by the time you’re here.
Tommy Zbikowski: Yes, I think, you know, coming for the amateurs, there’s a lot, you know, kind of a lot of wasted movement, as I liked to call it, and he called it, with, you know, bouncing around and moving a little too much. Because obviously, you know, they’re three round fights, and only two minutes of rounds, so you can afford, you know, that extra movement, because it’s really not going to pay a toll on you.
But once you, you know, get – obviously this is a four round fight, it’s not that much longer, but, you know, as a competitor, you always want to get better, you always want to learn things. And, you know, if you’re going to take a boxing career seriously, you’ve got to learn those small things where, you know, you’ve got to be able to conserve that energy over time. And pick and choose when you’ve got to use your movements, and stuff like that, and things like that. So it was very helpful.
MICHAEL HIRSLEY: Anything particularly with, you know, with the kind of jabs that you might use in pro boxing, or setting up power punches that’s different from amateur?
Tommy Zbikowski: Yes, definitely using a stiffer jab. I like to – I like using my jab in a lot of different ways, whether, you know, defensive to keep someone off, or offensive to try to find the range on someone, or just, you know, setting them up for other things. But, you know, mainly when you’re pro, you know, you can’t be slapping a jab out there, because the guys are too good, and they’re going to counter that.
LACY BANKS: I read a clip here that you started out as a south paw, or you were thinking you were a south paw. I mean are you a right hander? Or are you a switch hitter, or what?
Tommy Zbikowski: No. I’ve always been righty, but my father is the only lefty in the family, and I just – I watched him. You know, it was pretty much – I was a younger kid, so I was just the tag along, so I had to watch from the side, and, you know, pretty much what I looked, you know, I saw him doing it, so I tried to copy the exact same thing. You know, I’d never switch. I thought I was a lefty the first couple of times I went boxing.
LACY BANKS: OK. And how is boxing helping you to become a better football player? I know there’s a lot of hand eye coordination in being a good boxer and playing at your particular position.
Tommy Zbikowski: Yes, there really is the hand eye coordination. And, you know, the speed of if you’re covering someone, you’ve got to use bump and run. Or you’ve got to get your hands on someone, just being able to use your hands that kick. Because obviously you can’t just put your hands on them, you know, receivers are taught to counter that with either like a swim type move or, you know, slapping the hands off.
And just, you know, defensive back you’ve got to re counter that. And just going to through boxing, be able to do that, you know, kind of that counter, re counter and using your hands as weapons is something that’s benefited me as a defensive back.
BOB ARUM: Yes, I want to thank you all for coming on this conference call. I want to thank Tommy for participating. I want to welcome you all to the Big Apple, Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of boxing, on Saturday night, June 10. It’s going to be a tremendous show in addition to Tommy fighting Robert Bell, the main event Miguel Cotto and Paulie Malignaggi for the Junior Welterweight Championship. The card also features Irish John Duddy, from Dary, Ireland, undefeated middleweight, very popular in the New York area fighting Freddie Cuevas
of Chicago. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is on the card. Bobby Pacquiao, the brother of Manny Pacquiao faces former world champion, “The Flushing Flash” Kevin Kelly. Juan Manual Lopez also is featured on the card. So it should be a great night of boxing.
One thing you’re going to have a lot of fun watching the telecast, or if you can make it to Madison Square Garden, because the energy is going to be enormous. And we’re going to see something historic with the professional debut of Tommy Z.