Make no mistake about it, this is how this fight is being looked at by the crafters.
Jean Pascal is the A side, the boldface name, the former champion, whose peak years are in the rear view mirror. That’s in theory, of course, no one knows what the Canadian has in the tank til he gloves up Friday night in Florida, and takes a test on Fox Sports 1, against Ahmed Elbiali.
Elbiali is the guy who wants to taste some of that acclaim that Pascal wants to revisit. Title shots, being a known entity in this select fraternity, getting titles and making bank.
If I had to guess, I would think the fight will play out the way it most often does. The guy on the way up, in this case the 16-0 hitter from Egypt, age 27, will continue his momentum surge and send the elder into his next vocational phase, or another step in that direction. Pascal is 2-3 in his last five and Father Time is watching his case closely. At 35, he’s been taking mostly top tier fights since 2008 and yes, his tires have lost some tread, but we can’t know how much til the PBC program unfurls.
I chatted with the Egyptian fighter, to get a better sense of who he is, and what he brings to the table.
Q) You started out in hockey, and football. Hockey, in Miami! Can you tell me about that?
A) Ahmed Elbiali: My dad’s best friend was from Canada and he thought it would be a great sport for me since I liked contact. I started playing when I was 6-years old and transitioned into football around age 14. Then to boxing shortly after that, but I still played football in high school.
Q) Tell me what three fights in your career that affected you the most…that you learned from…or influenced or changed you.
Ahmed Elbiali: No doubt one of them was my 5th pro fight against Yuwshua Zadok. Reason being, that’s the fight that was going to determine if I was going to get signed with Al Haymon and Luis deCubas, so I was very nervous. For the first time in my life I felt real pressure. I came through with a nice knockout and the rest is history. The others were the fights I didn’t get the knockouts, especially against Andrew Hernandez, who I took lightly. Never again will I underestimate a fighter.
Q) Left hand fracture…did you know immediately that it was fractured? How did you react in the moment?
Ahmed Elbiali: Yeah it happened in the second round versus Hernandez (1-12-16) and I knew it because I had never broken anything on my hands before. Growing up, I was always taught to play through pain and that’s what I did. I’m a 100% healthy now and I never stopped training when I was down.
Q) Light heavy, what a division…where do you see yourself in the mix? You need two, three more fights before you challenge someone at the tip top?
Ahmed Elbiali: I feel I’m right there knocking on the doorstep of a world title. I know I must win this fight first so that’s where my focus is. Like all other contenders, I know I have to work my way to the top. My managers will let me know when I’m ready so I’m just fighting who every they put in front of me.
Q) What did you think of Kovalev’s return? Have you scouted Bivol? Is Beterbiev overrated, underrated, what?
Ahmed Elbiali: I think Kovalev is a great fighter but one who is on his way down. Out of all the champions, he would be the one I would love to fight. I think that fight would be fun for the fans. Bivol is another great fighter, but he hasn’t fought anyone at the elite level yet, so we’ll see what he’s all about when he does fight a top contender. Like Kovalev, Beterbiev is a great fighter on the decline. In my opinion, these guys have a ton of wear and tear on their bodies from all their amateur fights. I would love to step in the ring with any of them.
Q) Tell me what you think Americans should know about your heritage, if you wish…
Ahmed Elbiali: I’m just a regular guy who grew up in Miami, that was born in Egypt. I’m a super gringo, but my Egyptions roots are still there.
Q) Do you consider yourself American, or Egyptian-American, or…?
Ahmed Elbiali: I’m like 60% American and the rest is a mixture of my native culture and everything else. But to be honest, I’m just a human being like everyone else. This whole race thing is lame. We all bleed the same color. I was raised around Jewish folks, Christians, African-Americans and so on. Although I’m a Muslim, I wasn’t raised around Muslims. I treat everyone equal. I grew up in a very diverse area and kicked it with everyone.
Q) Jean Pascal…is he past his prime? Ready to be sent to his next vocational phase? PREDICTION?
Ahmed Elbiali: I predict I win the fight. That’s all I can say at this moment.
Q) And where will you be on the boxing ladder one year and then two years from now?
Ahmed Elbiali: I’ve learned over the years not to look ahead. All I’m thinking about is this fight with Pascal.