Tom Zbikowski, right, connects on a punch during his bout with Caleb Grummet… (Tim Shaffer / Reuters )
Baltimore Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski, saying his team's pursuit of a Super Bowl appearance is too great to resist, has withdrawn from his June 4 undercard boxing match at Staples Center to return to workouts with teammates in Baltimore.
Zbikowski was 3-0 in his return to professional boxing this spring.
His novel pursuit of the sweet science during the NFL's lockout made him an attractive draw to both a March card in Las Vegas headlined by super-welterweight world champion Miguel Cotto, and to the June 4 HBO date pitting WBC middleweight champion Sebastian Zbik of Germany against Mexico's Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Zbikowski (4-0, three knockouts) bowed out of his June 4 fight versus cruiserweight Mike Howell after Ravens teammates called him to participate in player-organized training sessions.
"It was time to start the transition back to football," Zbikowski told The Times in text messages. "My teammates are starting to organize some workouts, so it's just time to head back" to Baltimore. "Wish I had more time to do both."
Zbikowski, a charismatic, 26-year-old product of Notre Dame, last fought April 23 in Oklahoma, scoring a first-round technical knockout over Blake Warner. The victory was clouded when Zbikowski tested positive for the marijuana substance THC, but days later he produced a clean result, which the local boxing commission approved to immediately lift his suspension.
His promoter, Bob Arum, said Zbikowski's return to NFL training had nothing to do with the prior drug test, which Arum previously dismissed as a "contact high."
Zbikowski said he merely wanted to be fully committed to a Ravens team that had advanced to the AFC divisional round three consecutive seasons.
Zbikowski said his decision to join his teammates at workout sessions "was myself showing [them] that I'm getting ready for this upcoming season. It's going to be a big year for the Ravens, and I need to be ready.
"It was a very tough decision for me. It was a tremendous experience fighting for Arum again. As tough as it is to turn yourself into a fighter, it's equally as tough to transition into an NFL player."
Arum said he'd "definitely try" to lure Zbikowski back to boxing if the NFL season is scrapped by labor disputes but said he was resigned to the idea that Zbikowski would exhaust his NFL career before returning to the sweet science.