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Tommy Z hooks, blocks and jabs for charity

Brian Doxtader and Erin McGinn | Thursday, March 8, 2007

The last strains of “Sweet Home Alabama” faded, giving way to a barely-audible bagpipe rendition of the Notre Dame Victory March. The standing-room-only crowd jumped to its feet, while those who had chairs climbed up to get a better look as Notre Dame’s strong safety confidently paraded toward the ring.

Tom Zbikowski (or Tommy Z as he’s known in boxing circles) climbed into the ring wearing Fighting Irish green trim on his shorts and extended an arm into the air, as Three 6 Mafia’s “It’s a Fight” blared from the speakers. It was a three-ring circus, and the man everyone had come to see was finally taking center stage in the Century Center’s grand spectacle.

With the aid of his family, Tom Zbikowski held a charity boxing match to raise money for coach Charlie Weis’ Hannah and Friends, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. There were numerous silent auction items available at the entrance of the Center, including large photographs of various Notre Dame football players (such as Zbikowski, Jeff Samardzija and Brady Quinn) as well as signed items, like footballs signed by Charlie Weis and a photograph signed by former Irish head coach Lou Holtz.

In many ways, the event resembled nothing less than a circus – a raucous and chaotic atmosphere in which there was always something happening. There were “round-card” girls (students from the Chicago-area Harper College) that appeared during each contest. In one of the more spirited moments, the “round card girls” also threw miniature boxing gloves into the crowd, which clearly excited the fans.

There were nearly a dozen fights preceding Zibby’s, but it was obvious why everyone was there. Though the early bouts were entertaining – including a match that featured Eva Jones-Young, a South Bend native and the three-time female world champion, and a fight that ended in an unquestionable knockout – the audience’s impatient buzz became more pronounced as the night wore on. By the time Zbikowski floated and jabbed through his three rounds, the entire event had drawn out to over three hours.

Thankfully though, Tommy Z didn’t dispatch his opponent, Ryan St. Germain (from Elkhart, Ind.), with the same brevity that he did Robert Bell last summer. In fact, this fight lasted over ten times as long, though the crowd was obviously itching to see another vicious knockout. The audience chanted throughout the match, and both boxers put on a good show, with St. Germain gamely heading back into the ring after being bloodied early in the first round.

No. 9 clearly dictated the pace and flow of the fight, but seemed to ease up in the second round before coming out strong in the third. In fact, St. Germain was probably one of the only guys in the entire Center who wasn’t rooting for a speedy knockout.

Among the familiar Irish faces excited to see Zibby fight were players like John Sullivan, Ryan Harris and Trevor Laws, as well as coaches Charlie Weis and new defensive coordinator Corwin Brown.

Zbikowski was initially scheduled to go against another fighter, Kevin Murphy from Chicago. Murphy had to drop out, and St. Germain was scheduled in at the last minute after Murphy’s boxing license was suspended for testing positive for steroids.

After the fight, Nagle continued the silent auction and Zbikowski signed autographs for waiting fans. It is estimated that, after expenses, the event raised around $40,000.

It was an enjoyable evening for all in attendance and a great way to raise money for some worthy causes. And admittedly, it is a guilty pleasure for any opportunity to see Tommy Z in the ring.