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|Tommy Zbikowski is cheered by the crowd after winning his first pro heavyweight fight against Robert Bell.|
"The direction a young man will take is his own direction. He's only 21 years old," Dundee said.
But the venue signaled an opportunity for Zbikowski to transition from amateur to professional in rare fashion. More was on the line than money -- it was a chance for him to assert himself as a two-sport athlete, something that could create a groundswell of endorsement deals once his college football career is over, as well as notoriety.Entering the fight, there was one question: Would the overwhelming nature of this spectacle force the newbie to be off his game and land firmly on the canvas? Zbikowski dismissed that question at Wednesday's press conference, saying, "I plan to put on a show of speed, skill and power the heavyweight division hasn't seen in a while." Most agree that the low level of competition did not allow him to truly show his gifts, any more than working a bag would. But Bell, at 6-foot-2 and 227 pounds, held a three-inch and 13-pound advantage over his celebrated opponent. Interviewed just after the fight, Zbikowski said he didn't want to be seen as just a football player, but a boxer. Well, this boxer's record is 1-0.
"When you walk into the arena, all eyes are on you ... it was a good experience to be able to share it with my teammates," Zbikowski said.In the other bouts on the undercard: • Juan Lopez (12-0) won by unanimous decision over Sergio Mendez (5-1, 1 KO), handing him his first defeat and moving his young record to 6-0. • Bobby Pacquaio (27-11-3, 12 KOs) took local Kevin Kelley (58-7-2, 39 KOs) out in the third round, though there was a controversial punch TV announcers thought was a low blow just before the rib cage shot that took him out.
• The Chavez lineage continued to have a good showing as Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (26-0, 20 KOs) stopped Aaron Drake (10-2, 8 KOs) only 1:53 into the second round.• John Duddy (17-0, 15 KOs) was no dud, dispensing with Freddie Cuervas (25-9-1, 17 KOs), with the fight being stopped following a punishing 7th round. Eric Butterman is a freelance writer based in New York. The Associated Press contributed to this story.