When you think of an Egyptian born individual with a long reign, the first person to come to mind is the powerful and intelligent pharaoh, Cleopatra, who ruled for over two decades. Far removed from the Ptolemaic dynasty, there’s a new Egyptian born individual who goes by Ahmed Elbiali and he’s a professional boxer with 14 wins and 0 loses. Strength coupled with intellect gives him an edge other fighters don’t have and it’s only a matter of time before he reigns supreme. Coming off a UD win over Andrew Hernandez, The Unorthodox Stance had the pleasure of speaking with Elbiali, who enlightened and provided tremendous insight on his life as a fighter rising up the boxing ranks.
HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU WERE INTRODUCED TO BOXING AND AT WHAT POINT DID YOU REALIZE YOU WANTED TO PURSUE IT AS A CAREER?
I was 16 when I started boxing. Honestly, the first day I was in the gym and I was introduced to the amateur coach, I was looking at the mirror while I was hitting the bag. Because when you don’t know how to box, that’s what you do, you punch and look at the mirror. I thought to myself, ‘I wonder how long it’s gonna take until I get like Mike Tyson.’ I’m not like Mike Tyson at all but now I have the honor of being on national television and things like that. So, I think right away, right when I was 16, right when I started boxing I knew, I fell in love with it. From day one, even if I wasn’t doing that well in it, I still loved it.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN ANY OTHER SPORTS GROWING UP?
I grew up playing ice hockey and American football. Then during high school I’d go to football after school and boxing practice would be at night in the evening. Yeah, I’d just go to that and try to do both at the same time. I honestly thought I was going to play Division I football. I loved football. But, after I got a couple Division II offers, I realized I would rather just stay in Miami, go to school down here and also pursue my boxing career.
HOW MANY AMATEUR BOUTS DID YOU HAVE? AND ARE ANY OF THE GUYS YOU FACED PROS NOW?
I fought Robert Brant, he was a US national champion. I beat him. I fought another guy, his name is Tony Mack. I beat him. He was a US national champion too. I went 36-7 or 36-6, something like that. I didn’t have a long amateur career but I had a lot of sparring sessions with a lot of good fighters. I was able to make my Egyptian national team but the only reason why I couldn’t go to the Olympics in 2012 was due to the Egyptian revolution that happened in 2010 and 2011. That’s what held me back and that is what gave me my decision to turn pro in 2013.
Things don’t happen overnight. If things do happen overnight they usually go away overnight too.
YOU RECENTLY GRADUATED FROM FIU, CONGRATS. HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO JUGGLE THE RIGORS OF A PROFESSIONAL BOXING CAREER WITH BEING A COLLEGE STUDENT?
It was hard. Eventually I just wanted to graduate to just finish school and focus on my boxing. I was like, imagine what I can do when I finish school and just focus on boxing alone. But I finished school and I realized I like school. It keeps me busy and keeps me a little more active and awake than just boxing alone. So, I decided to go into grad school. The first semester that I finished I took a lot of classes. Now I’m just taking a couple just to have something on the side and to also just stay in school and be able to focus on boxing. I’m getting my masters in International Business. The truth is nowadays it’s like having a degree just makes people think you’re intelligent. With boxing too it’s not like the NFL or soccer and even tennis. It’s a very dangerous sport and you can just be on the fast track and you’re hot and your making money, then it all changes the next day because something happened to you. It’s just the way it is, it’s not a bad thing, it’s just the sport I’m involved in. I realize that no matter how good of a fighter you are or no matter how much potential or bright future people may think you’ll have, you never really know in this sport.
YOUR STORY IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT FROM THE TYPICAL BOXER FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS. YOU HAVE A COLLEGE DEGREE AND YOU’RE GOING FOR YOUR MASTERS. WHAT MAKES YOU WANT TO GET INVOLVED WITH SUCH A DANGEROUS SPORT?
I was also a troublesome kid. Was I ever in super, super bad trouble? Nah. I just did what a lot of south Florida kids and Miami kids do. I have no family involved in boxing, no friends, I had the idea of getting into boxing after I watched it, and I liked the sport growing up. It was all by myself. What’s wrong with a kid that age saying, oh, I wanna do something, you know? I fell in love with boxing and I felt like one day I can do something with it, that’s what’s happening now. I just have a normal dream or a normal goal, I hope for people to see that. It’s just like a regular dude wanting to become the best football player or an astronaut. I don’t feel like you need to be from a bad neighborhood to get that. I know in boxing that’s more common but I don’t feel like that’s necessary. I had to work for what I wanted. My parents, they’d send me to Egypt two to three months out of the year. It would be a drastic change. Night and day. I’m used to Wi-Fi, TV’s and computers. To seeing kids walk around in the street barefoot and around areas that I never thought I’d see, ya know? Seeing that it showed me a lot. Growing up I played with kids that played football and stuff and they didn’t grow up in the best areas but we always hung out. I hung out at their house. I was always taught to be open-minded to all types of financial categories in life. For me there’s no difference, we’re all the same, we’re all human.
IT’S BEEN FUN TO WATCH YOUR DEVELOPMENT AND PROGRESSION SO FAR, WHAT’S THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE YOU SEE IN YOURSELF AS A FIGHTER NOW AS OPPOSED TO WHERE YOU WERE A YEAR AGO?
The biggest difference is the experience I’m gaining fight by fight. I’m realizing experience is very, very important in boxing. It helps you train better, it helps you fight better, it helps you stay more relaxed leading up to the fight. Just so many things. I’m just really looking forward to the next five years and seeing how much I’ll get better and change until then.
SPEAKING OF EXPERIENCE, YOU SPARRED WITH ANDRE WARD RECENTLY, HOW WAS THAT EXPERIENCE? AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF AS A FIGHTER FROM THOSE SESSIONS?
It was great. Andre is a really nice guy. Very smart, very technical and an amazing boxer. He’s way better than people actually give him credit for. A lot of people give him credit and think he’s pound-for-pound number one, but he’s very good. He truly deserves being pound-for-pound number one. And the experience was great. I learned from him not just in the boxing ring but how he works his camp, how he hits the bag, how he shadowboxes, so many things to learn from a great fighter like that. It was just an amazing experience and it taught me a lot in a very short period of time. I’m very blessed to have received that experience.
HOW HARD WAS IT TO HIT WARD WITH CLEAN SHOTS?
He’s very hard to hit. He’s very smart and I don’t mean this in a bad way but he’s…he’s not dirty…he’s just very sneaky and tricky. He taught me, I’ll tell you that. He taught me so many things by the way he does things. He’s very intelligent and he knows how to use his power for him. A lot of people criticize Andre Ward for not having that much power and pop in his punches but for me, he honestly does, and he uses it to his advantage.
ONE OF THE REASONS WHY YOU’RE FUN TO WATCH IS BECAUSE YOU HAVE A LOT OF POWER AND TEND TO WALK YOUR OPPONENTS DOWN. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE?
I’d like to be considered a boxer/puncher. But for now I think people consider me a brawler. Eventually I think my style will allow me to be a boxer/puncher, where I can move around, use my jab, pick shots, and deliver them accurately. That takes time, ya know? It’s gonna take time and fight by fight I’ll learn how to do that better.
Deep down inside I knew I would sign with Al Haymon, I honestly did.
YOU HURT YOUR HAND LAST FIGHT AGAINST ANDREW HERNANDEZ, WHAT HAPPENED?
I broke my hand in the first round and I have a cast now. They tried to put the bone in place manually on Friday, so now I’m just waiting until Thursday to see if the bone joins properly. If that happens I won’t need surgery. Surgery just adds a month to everything, so, I’m waiting to see. If there’s no surgery involved I can pretty much get back into training next week, which would be a good thing because I can get my strength conditioning and running in with my lower body. So, we’ll see.
IF YOU HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO FIGHT FOR A TITLE IN YOUR NEXT BOUT, DO YOU THINK YOU’D BE READY TO TAKE IT?
I would definitely want to take some time to improve but for sure if I get a title shot in my next fight I’ll take it. We’re here to fight the best, if they want to move me up to number two to fight a champion, sure, why not? One, I have the chance to win a world title. Two, if I lose I’m at number two. I lost to a world champion and I’ll get another shot, ya know? Would it be the smart decision to take that? Definitely not. My goal is not to just win a world championship and then retire from boxing, ya know? I want to win one, two, three, in three different categories. That’s what my ultimate goal is and that takes time to develop. Things don’t happen overnight. If things do happen overnight they usually go away overnight too. I’d rather take it slow and take my time and enjoy this time getting there and once I get there I can enjoy my time there and rule it for a while.
YOU SIGNED WITH AL HAYMON PRETTY EARLY IN YOUR CAREER, HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT AND WHAT’S IT BEEN LIKE HAVING HIM AS A MANAGER?
It’s been great. My first five fights, yeah, they were done alone. My first fight I was fighting a national champion. They put me in to not necessarily win so after that pro debut it was hard for me to get fights. I would have to sell tickets, I didn’t make any money and I was pretty much being my manager at the same time. But after my fifth fight I got a call from Luis de Cubas, Jr., who is an Al Haymon representative. He’s my man to talk to and he’s done wonders for me. He told me before my fight, before my fifth fight, he’s like, ‘you know we saw video on you, we like you and we wanna sign you, so, I’ll send you the contract over later this week.’ So, I had a fight that week and I knew they weren’t going to send it before the fight, ya know? So, I got through the fight, I won the fight. It was little bit of a tough fight, but, yeah, I get an email a couple of hours after my fight and there’s the contract, ‘welcome to the Haymon family.’ So, ever since that day it’s been great. They treat you well, they understand we’re fighters, it’s amazing. They get me the right fights, they’re building my career and I’m just leaving it up to them. They’re gonna do their job and I’m gonna do my job.
WERE THERE ANY NERVES AT ALL GOING INTO THAT FIGHT, THINKING ABOUT THE PENDING CONTRACT AND IF YOU DON’T WIN IT MAY BE OFF THE TABLE?
Yeah, I was way too nervous and I shouldn’t have been. It was a very good learning experience. I gained so much experience from it, about how to control my nerves, not letting things get into my head, yeah, it was funny. It was a long day, but, I got the job done and got the contract. So it was good.
CONGRATS, I KNOW YOU’RE EXCITED. IT SEEMS LIKE THEY ARE DOING A GOOD JOB OF GETTING YOU EXPOSURE BECAUSE I’VE BEEN SEEING YOU ON TV FOR A WHILE NOW.
Yeah, it’s just a dream come true, honestly. Deep down inside I knew I would sign with Al Haymon, I honestly did. I had managers and promoters coming up to me in the beginning of my career and I actually did sign for about a week. I had to go to lawyers to pull out of it. When my coaches asked me why I did that and why can’t I just take the offer and take it for what it is, I just felt like I deserved more. At the moment it sounded unrealistic but deep down inside when you know something can happen, it will definitely happen. If you truly believe in what you’re saying and what you’re doing, it’s for sure gonna happen. And ya know what? It happened. It was sweet, and ever since then I’ve been televised 7 out of my 8 last fights. That’s very good for a prospect that not many people know about. I didn’t fight amateurs in the United States that much and I didn’t make the US national team. For me to get that much television time, it’s a blessing and an amazing opportunity.