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Football: Zbikowski fights in match to help charity

Dan Murphy | Wednesday, March 7, 2007

At approximately 10:30 Tuesday night, Irish safety Tom Zbikowski finished a three-round exhibition match at the Century Center in South Bend. Just 12 hours earlier, Zbikowski didn’t have medics, a ring or an opponent.

Zbikowski, the headliner of the 12-bout event, was originally slated to take on heavyweight fighter Kevin Murphy. However, Murphy was recently suspended after testing positive for unspecified illegal substances. Ed Zbikowski, Tom’s manager and father, scrambled to find a new opponent with less than 24 hours notice.

“We don’t know what to expect, but this is the way Tommy lives his whole life,” Zbikowski said shortly before the bout began.

He was able to add Ryan St. Germaine, a 25-year-old fighter out of Goshen, Ind., to the card earlier that afternoon. St. Germaine began his professional career a month ago and has gone 1-1 in his two fights since.

No winner was declared in Tuesday’s fight because judges only keep scoring during official, non-exhibition matches. However, the focus of the night – which included eight amateur and three professional bouts – was to raise money for a number of charitable organizations.

The Tommy Z9 Foundation, Zbikowski’s charity that raises money to fight cystic fibrosis, and Irish football coach Charlie Weis’ Hannah & Friends both received considerable amounts of money through ticket sales, raffles and various memorabilia items auctioned throughout the night. Weis, along with many members of the football team, were on hand to support their defensive captain.

“The fact that [Zbikowski] included Hannah & Friends was a very generous thought on his part,” Weis said.

Zbikowski decided to include the coach’s foundation as a way of thanking him for allowing him to participate in the fight. Weis was concerned about his starting safety’s health, but confident in his ability to stay out of harm’s way.

“Tommy is a very confident person when it comes to boxing. He knows what he is doing in there,” Weis said.

Although there was no encore to Zbikowski’s knockout debut in Madison Square Garden, the 210-pounder held his own against St. Germaine, bloodying him in the first and third rounds. The biggest punches of the night came in the final round when Zbikowski landed three big rights to send his opponent staggering backwards.

The almost completely pro-Zibby crowd roared, but St. Germaine was able to quickly regain his composure and finish the fight well.