In the segment In the Ring, boxing writer Bill Barner interviews fighters from inside the ring in an effort to gain more insight into their fighting styles. In May 2014, Barner interviewed Super Middleweight Ahmed “The Egyptian” Elbiali.
Born in Egypt, Elbiali immigrated to the United States at a young age. As an amateur, Elbiali dreamed of being an Olympic fighter, but those dreams were shattered and shelved during the famous Arab Spring.
“I could not represent the U.S. in the Olympics because of my nationality” Elbiali explains. “When I looked into going to Egypt in 2011 to qualify for the Egyptian Olympic team I was strongly discouraged by my camp because of the violence. That’s when they recommended I turn pro.”
A fighter avoiding violence is ironic at first glimpse but rather insightful upon further analysis. It accentuates the sportsmanship within boxing. Boxing is controlled violence, and control is what separates the sweet science of boxing from street violence.
Fortunately for Elbiali, the Olympics are not the only means for a young amateur fighter to cut his teeth in boxing. Elbiali amassed an amateur record of 36-7, including two Florida Golden Gloves State Championships and an appearance in the Word Series of Boxing.
He has also served as a sparring partner with such contenders and world champions as Miguel Cotto, Jermain Taylor, Edison Miranda and Glen Johnson. As a professional Elbiali is 4-0 with all four wins coming by way of knockout.
“In the pros, you need to be able to knock opponents out,” Elbiali notes. “A professional boxer will not advance his career by only winning decisions.”
Like Mike Tyson before him, Ahmed Elbiali studies films of fighters from all eras including Marvin Hagler, Floyd Patterson and Joe Frazier. But when pressed for his all-time favorite, he names Roberto Duran without a moment’s hesitation.
At Punch Boxing for Fitness in Miami, the Egyptian steps into the ring with another young fighter.
“He’s a friend of mine from high school,” Elbiali says, making introductions. “He really wants to fight me for some reason, so I’m going to get in the ring with him.”
After moving an exchanging some pulled punches, Elbiali hits his friend with a body shot. The friend collapses.
“He tried to hit me hard!” Elbiali announces to the gym, invoking laughter.
This writer then stepped into the ring with Elbiali, hoping to learn more about the pugilist’s style while avoiding the fate of his high school chum.
Elbiali is a pressure fighter, he maintains a consistently short distance in the style of Joe Frazier, Jake LaMotta, and Marvin Hagler before him. He throws a high ratio of body shots, explaining that he keeps the body-to-head punch ratio high in the early rounds.
However, a quick look at Elbiali’s professional record shows that none of his fights have made it into later rounds.
“It doesn’t matter,” he insists. “I fight until the fight is over, but I train for twelve rounds. I always train for a twelve-round fight regardless of how long my next match it.”
Elbiali is quick to acknowledge his limits. When pressured into the ropes, he moves and punches at angles, never counterpunching from the ropes.
“I’m still learning,” he says humbly. “I’m not Roy Jones Jr., at least not yet. I’m still learning and I listen to my trainer all the time. He says get off the ropes, so I do.”
Although a heavy-handed puncher, Elbiali will not stay in the middle of the ring and exchange punches.
“I’ve been trained by Cuban trainers, so I’ve learned not to trade punches” the Egyptian says, referring to the hit-and-don’t-be-hit style that has served Cuban champion Guillermo Rigondeaux well. “My trainer hates it when I get hit. So do I, of course. Nobody likes getting hit. Except maybe Brandon Rios.”
After displaying his footwork, style and body punching in the ring, the 168lb fighter takes off his gloves and continues to discuss his newfound professional career.
“I’ve had offers from some promoters, but I’m currently unsigned and glad. I’m not just looking for a paycheck, I’m looking for a career. In the meantime I’m pursuing a degree in sports medicine and making a name for myself both here and abroad. I’ve been in Miami since I was four years old, and have been boxing since I was a teenager. I’m Egyptian by blood but America is my home and in my heart I am American. America is the country that continues to give me opportunities to be successful and achieve my dreams.”
Elbiali’s next fight is Saturday June 7, 2014 at Casino Jai Alai Miami. His opponent has not yet been announced.
Bill Barner is a former certified “USA Boxing” Judge, Referee, and Trainer. He is a former sparring partner for several amateur and professional fighters and currently practices criminal and immigration law in South Florida for BarnerRossen PA. He has appeared in Bleacher Report, VOICE Magazine, Youngstown Vindicator, and is a regular contributor to East Side Boxing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.