NFL players inquire about entering ring

With the NFL locking out its players, many athletes will be looking for alternative ways to make money.

Tom Zbikowski is ahead of the curve. The Baltimore Ravens safety made $50,000 Saturday to fight Richard Bryant at the MGM Grand Garden, and Zbikowski might have started a trend. Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said he has received calls from several NFL players inquiring about the possibility of getting into the ring.

Two New York Giants — running back Brandon Jacobs and defensive end Osi Umenyiora — are among those who have called Arum. If the lockout turns out to be as long as many in football speculate it will, Arum expects his phone to keep ringing.

“They have to be able to fight,” Arum said when asked if it was realistic to expect football players to perform professionally in the ring. “The reason we’re using Tommy is he has extensive boxing experience. When we signed him in 2006, he already had 90 amateur fights. He knows how to box.”

Zbikowski said he wouldn’t be surprised to see fellow NFL players try boxing, pro wrestling or mixed martial arts. “I’m sure a lot of guys think they can get in the ring and fight,” he said. “But it’s a lot harder than it looks.”

Of the NFL players who might consider getting into boxing, Zbikowski said Ravens teammate Haloti Ngata, a 330-pound nose tackle, could be pretty good.

“If you let me train Haloti, he’d do some damage,” Zbikowski said. “He’s seriously the most gifted athlete I’ve ever been around. There’s no one who would be able to compete with him physically. He’s just a bear.”

Zbikowski, 25, made $391,760 in base salary last season. He’s a restricted free agent, so the $50,000 for Saturday’s fight was a nice payday.

Arum said there will be more to come. “As long as it doesn’t interfere with football, we’re going to keep him busy,” the promoter said. “We’d like to get him at least two or three more fights this year.”

■ PLANET HOLLYWOOD RESULTS — Tye Fields might want to stick to promoting fights in Canada after the heavyweight was knocked out by Michael Grant in the third round of their 10-round fight Friday at Planet Hollywood.

Grant (47-4, 35 knockouts) connected with an overhand right that caught Fields (45-3, 41 KOs) flush on the chin and sent him to the canvas. The fight was stopped 1:05 into the round.

The 36-year-old Fields, who has spent the past couple of years promoting fights in Edmonton, Alberta, has lost all three of his bouts by knockout.

Veteran junior welterweight Joel Casamayor, 39, started fast and held on to win a 10-round split decision over Manuel Leyva. Casamayor (38-5-1 22 KOs) led 97-92 and 96-93 on two judges’ cards, and Leyva (18-2, 10 KOs) had a 95-94 edge on the third.

Las Vegas cruiserweight Aaron Williams (21-3-1, 14 KOs) scored a first-round TKO over Shane Steele (7-4, five KOs) to win the vacant WBC USNBC title. Williams knocked Steele down twice in the first 2:27 before referee Joe Cortez stopped the fight.

■ MORALES-MAIDANA OFFICIALS — The Nevada Athletic Commission selected Tony Weeks to referee the April 9 WBA lightweight title fight between Erik Morales (51-6, 35 KOs) and Marcos Maidana (29-2, 27 KOs) at the MGM Grand Garden. The judges, all from Nevada, will be Adalaide Byrd, Jerry Roth and Dick Houck.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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