Unbeaten 175-pound contender Ahmed Elbiali faces biggest challenge of his young career when he takes on former light heavyweight world champion Jean Pascal Friday night on FS1.
Ahmed Elbiali is about to take a step Friday night that could change the course of his life, and certainly will change the course of his boxing career. Elbiali, 27, the good-looking, sturdy, college-educated light heavyweight who lives in Miami, Florida, though was born in Cairo, Egypt, will be taking on former light heavyweight world champion Jean Pascal.
He’ll be fighting Pascal Friday night in the 10-round main event of an FS1-televised card (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) at Hialeah Park in Miami, Florida.
Then laughing in the face of peril when it occurred.
He thrives on it.
At one time in his life, Elbiali was a roly-poly, 5-foot-6, 220-pound 12-year-old. Elbiali didn’t really get it. Other kids, cruel kids, would call him “fat ass.” He didn’t think he was fat. It didn’t help that Elbiali was also a snarky kid who liked to antagonize people.
It didn’t matter who they were or what they were carrying, even if it was a gun. In Elbiali’s case, he was fortunate that one day someone he antagonized was only carrying a pellet gun.
“I was a chubby, little, short fat kid, but I knew how to use my mouth,” said Elbiali, laughing. “When I was 12, I got shot in the head with a pellet rifle. I kept the pellet in my head for three years. The reason why I had it taken out was because I was playing high school football at the time, and when I put on my helmet, the pellet would make noises in my skull.”
He never told his parents about the pellet. In fact, he never told anyone. Years later he finally admitted it, because he had to come clean with the surgeon who removed the pellet. His mother, Hala, keeps the pellet in a box with his baby teeth.
“You’re kids, and at the time, I was being bullied, but when you’re a kid you don’t recognize when you’re being bullied,” Elbiali said. “Back then, bullying was a part of life. I would definitely say I was picked on for my Egyptian heritage. I also had a big mouth. This kid one day pointed his pellet gun at me and said, ‘Listen, I’m going to give you 10 seconds to run. I’m trying to practice my aim.’
“I was admittedly a troublemaker as a kid. I just had a big mouth and that got me in a lot of trouble. I could never just walk away. Kids would pick on me and I would get upset and not know what to say. Sometimes, I would resort to fighting. So I told the kid with the pellet gun, ‘What the (bleep) are you doing? Are you (bleeping) kidding me?’ He said he was dead serious. Then he told me to start running. I was 12.”
“ I want to accomplish something great and focus on making the world a better place. Boxing is so short. I have to make the most of my time right now. The point is to do something good before I die. Boxing is my way of leaving my mark. ” Unbeaten 175-pound contender Ahmed Elbiali
The kid lifted the gun. Elbiali started running. He heard a pop.
“I felt something in my head and I was gushing blood,” Elbiali recalled.
The ambulance came and Elbiali told the paramedics he fell off his skateboard. He didn’t want to dime out the kid who shot him, because he didn’t need any more harassment. The EMTs said they felt a knot in his head, which Elbiali countered that it was “just a pebble in my head.”
Fast forward three years later, when Elbiali visited his homeland of Egypt, an X-ray revealed the calcified pellet that was rubbing against the left hairline of his skull. No one could ever really see it, because hair covered it up. But he could feel it and he knew it was there each time he put his football helmet on his freshman year as a defensive end for Dr. Krop High in Miami.
His mother, Hala, coerced him into seeing a nutritionist at 12. In November 2002 he was 220. By March 2003, he was 5-foot-11, 165 pounds.
Soon after, he was introduced to boxing, which came by happenstance.
When Elbiali was a freshman, a senior got into it with him on the bus when he was coming home from school. He wanted to meet Elbiali as soon they got off the bus. It didn’t last long.
“O my God, I got my ass kicked, and I told the kid, ‘I’m good for today,’ but I remember how easily he beat me up and I remember thinking if this kid could do that to me so easily that I have to learn how to box,” Elbiali said. “The funny thing, I know the guy today and he looks up to me now. He’s followed my career.
“I learned when I was younger to see the positive in things. Boxing requires struggle. You have to feel struggle to know the importance of discipline in boxing. If things didn’t work the way they did when I was younger, I wouldn’t be where I am today. You learn. I would hide the bruises from the fights from my parents.”
So Elbiali knows the challenge he’ll be facing in Pascal. It goes up there with the other tests he’s faced. His drive is a vast furnace. The little, fat kid who was forced to run that day from a pellet gun is still there. He’s learned to fight back.
“Pascal I’ve heard is underestimating me. That’s fine. He’s not the first to do that. He doesn’t know how hard I’ve worked to get where I am, and my purpose is bigger and I want to accomplish something great and focus on making the world a better place,” Elbiali said. “Boxing is so short. I have to make the most of my time right now. The point is to do something good before I die. Boxing is my way of leaving my mark.
“I think I’m proof that you can dream big.”
For complete coverage of Elbiali vs Pascal, visit our fight page