Tommy Zbikowski, left, and Richard Bryant exchange punches during the… (Al Bello / Getty Images )
Reporting from Las Vegas
Football's loss may be boxing's gain.
With the NFL in labor limbo, Baltimore Ravens safety Tommy Zbikowski returned to pro boxing Saturday and produced a first-round technical knockout over a flabbier foe, Richard Bryant.
The 25-year-old Zbikowski pounded a left hook to Bryant's belly, and the 235-pound man lost his breath and slumped to the canvas.
Bryant was so out of wind that referee Russell Mora stopped the fight at the 1:45 mark of the first round.
"I knew I hurt him," the 193-pound Zbikowski said. "I love that I got a body shot for a knockout."
Zbikowski was able to strike a $10,000 deal to fight Bryant with bout promoter Top Rank as the Ravens' restricted free agent awaits signing a tender with the team.
Top Rank Chairman Bob Arum said he projects another Zbikowski event March 26 in Atlantic City, and also in late April in a casino resort outside Dallas.
Zbikowski hadn't fought since his 2006 pro boxing debut as a Notre Dame player and admitted, "I was a little rusty … he was a tough dude."
Bryant, who clearly expected some punishment by entering the MGM Grand Garden Arena to Culture Club's "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me," called the decisive body shot "tremendous."
The charismatic Zbikowski now has an open schedule with the NFL's labor strife and was visibly excited about spending the time away from football in boxing, a sport he's called his "first love."
"I just want to keep it rolling as much as we can," he said.
In the pay-per-view opener, International Boxing Federation lightweight champion Miguel Vazquez (28-3) of Guadalajara, Mexico, affirmed his belt worthiness with a pure display of boxing class to defeat the more eager but less polished Lenny Zappavigna (25-1) by unanimous decision, 117-111, 118-110, 118-110.
The card also featured an impressive display of brawling by New Jersey's Pawel Wolak (29-1, 19 KOs), a Poland native who hammered former world super-welterweight champion Yuri Foreman (28-2) so severely that referee Kenny Bayless waved off the fight on the advice of the ex-champ's corner with Foreman on his stool after six rounds.