Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski will be making a little money as a two-sport athlete this offseason, with a professional boxing match scheduled for 10 days from now.
Zbikowski is listed on the undercard of the March 12 event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where he’s slated to take on an opponent to be named later. This isn’t some fly-by-night boxing promoter throwing a football player in the ring as a publicity stunt; it’s a major fight card headlined by a main event of Miguel Cotto vs. Ricardo Mayorga.
According to ESPN boxing reporter Dan Rafael, Zbikowski just needs to get licensed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission at its March 8 meeting, and his fight on March 12 will go off. Getting licensed shouldn’t be a problem for Zbikowski, who participated in dozens of amateur boxing matches in his youth and fought professionally once before, in 2006, winning a first-round technical knockout at Madison Square Garden. At the time, Zbikowski played for Notre Dame, and the NCAA ruled that he could box professionally and retain his amateur status as a football player. Video of that fight is here.
NFL players’ contracts prohibit them from boxing and other activities where the risk of injury is significant, but Zbikowski is a restricted free agent who isn’t under contract, so the Ravens can’t stop him from boxing. And if the owners lock the players out, all NFL players will be free to box, wrestle, participate in a mixed martial arts fight or do anything else to make money, injury risks be damned.
Of course, a player who participated in a combat sport and suffered an injury significant enough that he couldn’t play once the lockout ends and the season starts would be placed on the non-football injury list, and wouldn’t get paid until he was healthy enough to play. So it’s unlikely that many players will participate in such activities.
But the option is out there for Bart Scott to wrestle, Zbikowski to box or any other player to fight in a cage. If there’s a lengthy lockout, I wouldn’t be surprised if more players follow in Scott and Zbikowski’s footsteps.