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Tommy Z Hunting For Boxing Success, And Still, A New Nickname

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Tommy ZbikowskiTwo quick knockouts into his pro career and we’re still calling him Tommy Z.

We’ve got to find this guy a nickname.

He can’t be hanging around the fight game calling himself Tommy Z. That’s not a nickname, it’s a reprimand, something his fourth-grade teacher might have called him when she caught him talking in class.

“Tommy Z, do you want to share that story with the entire class?“

His real name is Tommy Zbikowski, which explains the Tommy Z. It’s an easy way out.

But Tommy Z doesn’t really roll over the tongue like “Madcap Maxie” Baer, or the “Manassa Mauler,” or  “Iron” Mike Tyson. Those are nicknames that stick with you long after you‘ve heard the final bell.

Another thing about the nickname is that it doesn‘t send chills down your back or make the hairs on your arms stand up. It doesn’t hush the crowd.

Tommy Z makes me think of the guy who delivers your pizza or bags your groceries. He’s a nice guy who always comes in last when it comes to girls, sports and cars.

If Zbikowski was a gangster, it’d be different. Tommy Z would be a great name for a guy in a three-piece suit who wears a fedora, has a scar on his cheek and carries a machine gun (Tommy gun?) under his overcoat.

“Hey, boss. We gotta do somethin’ about that stoolie on Pier 4. Should we have Tommy Z take care of him?”

Now that works.

But this is the fight game and you got to have a nickname that fits you well, that feels as warm and comfortable as grandma’s hug, but is as tough as lighting a wet stogie in the rain.

Zbikowski is a former Notre Dame football player who fought in the Chicago Golden Gloves a few years ago and did pretty well, reaching the finals before being forced to pull out because of a family emergency. They list his amateur record at 75-15.

He later turned pro, winning his professional debut in Madison Square Garden on June 10, 2006 when he knocked out some guy named Robert Bell in just 49 seconds. I saw the clip. Zbikowski can fight.

But then the NFL got in the way when Tommy Z was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft.

Playing safety in the NFL, his fight career was put on indefinite hold. But then they went and had this Collective Bargaining Agreement problem and Tommy Z, staring at a lockout and realizing there will be no more checks in the mail, decided it might be easier to go back to fighting for an income instead of selling tires at Wal-Mart.

So they booked a fight for Tommy Z on the undercard of last Saturday night’s Miguel Cotto vs. Ricardo Mayorga title fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and Tommy Z did what he was expected to do. He stopped some poor guy named Richard Bryant at the 1:45 mark of the first round.

That’s a pretty good night for an NFL player, but what is even better is, he stopped Bryant with a body shot. There’s something about that you’ve got to like.

It was about 30 seconds after Bryant quit wheezing and was helped out of the ring that they offered Tommy Z a fight on March 26 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. They haven’t come up with any opponent yet, but he’s fighting for Top Rank, so they’ll get someone. They always do.

In the meantime, we’ve got to find this guy a nickname. Asked if he was going to change his old nickname, Zbikowski said he’s always gone by that name, but if his new boxing gig starts to take off, he’s going to want to find something else. Something a little more, say, intimidating?

“When I start boxing full-time, I’ll get a real nickname,” said Zbikowski. “I’m waiting for a boxing writer to just give me a nickname for boxing because I’ve never had one and I’ve always looked forward to having one. I can’t be a self-proclaimed whatever. So I’m just waiting for a nice nickname to stick.”

His nickname should be something simple and catchy but not too flashy, something he wouldn’t mind hearing as he climbs through the ropes into the ring. It should have something to do with sending guys to La La Land.
Maybe some of these will inspire someone to come up with a name: Chris “Rapid Fire” Byrd; James “Lights Out” Toney; Jack “The Boston Gob” Sharkey; Billy “The St. Paul Thunderbolt“ Miske; Jameel “Big Time” McCline; Gene “The Fighting Marine” Tunney; Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield; “Two Ton” Tony Galento.

Some guys even have two nicknames, like “Fast Fres,” or “Big O” Oquendo.

Still, not much there he can use.

Maybe we could capitalize on his college football career and call him the “All-American.” We could sure use the publicity.

“I’ve played in an AFC championship game and in Notre Dame Stadium,” Tommy Z told the Baltimore Sun recently. “I‘ve fought in Madison Square Garden and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. I would like someone to beat that.“

Maybe we should just call him “Lucky.”

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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