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Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Updated: March 3, 5:22 PM ET
Tom Zbikowski ready for return to ring

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Baltimore Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski, who fought once professionally in 2006, plans to return to boxing next week in the likely event that NFL owners lock out players once the deadline to secure a new collective bargaining agreement expires at midnight ET Thursday.

If there is no deal, Zbikowski will fight a four-round bout as a cruiserweight on March 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the televised undercard of the Showtime PPV card headlined by junior middleweight titleholder Miguel Cotto's first defense against Ricardo Mayorga.

Zbikowski's request for a boxing license is on the agenda of Tuesday's Nevada State Athletic Commission meeting. He must go before the panel for a license because he has been inactive as a fighter for more than 36 consecutive months. Getting the license, however, is likely a formality.

"He's coming back to boxing, assuming there's a lockout," Carl Moretti of promoter Top Rank told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "If there's a lockout, at that point, he's free to go ahead and fight. He's fought once already and he probably has the most extensive amateur (boxing) background of any pro football player, and he really loves the sport."

Zbikowski played college football at Notre Dame from 2003 to 2007. He went by the name "Tommy Z" during the build up to his lone pro fight, coming into the ring to the Notre Dame fight song. He needed just 49 seconds to knock out Robert Bell at Madison Square Garden in New York in June 2006 on the undercard of another Cotto fight -- a junior welterweight title defense against Paulie Malignaggi.

It was a one-shot deal for Zbikowski, who played the next season for the Fighting Irish and was eventually selected by the Ravens in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

For the fight against Bell, Zbikowski fought as a heavyweight, weighing 214 pounds. For the fight next week, he plans to fight slightly below 200 pounds in the cruiserweight division, Moretti said.

Zbikowski, 25, of Arlington Heights, Ill., is being trained by Orlando Cuellar, who is best known as the longtime trainer of former light heavyweight champion Glen Johnson. Miguel Diaz, one of boxing most respected cutmen, will also be in his corner.

Zbikowski, whose first fight was also on a Top Rank card, attended the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley press conference in Las Vegas last month and met with Top Rank chief Bob Arum to talk about fighting again in the event of a lockout.

As an amateur, Zbikowski, who took up boxing when he was 9, fashioned a 75-15 record.

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.