For a young athlete with many aspirations to fulfill, Ahmed Elbiali envisions a life when competition no longer will be his vocation and main source of income.
Still in the early stages of his professional boxing career, Elbiali, 27, already has earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida International University and is enrolled in a graduate program at Nova Southeastern University. Competing in a sport that faces a stereotype that its participants lack an academic foundation, Elbiali is disproving the skeptics.
“A fighter’s career will have its conclusion at some point,” Elbiali said. “My family always has stressed the importance of education. Thankfully, I have managed to combine school with pursuing my dreams as a fighter.”
Four years into his career, Elbiali, an Aventura resident and Dr. Krop High graduate, remains on an upward trend thanks to a 16-0 record and 13 knockouts. On Friday night, Elbiali’s trajectory will take another important step with his first noteworthy opponent.
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Elbiali will fight former light-heavyweight champion Jean Pascal in the main event of a card at Hialeah Park and Casino. The scheduled 10-round light-heavyweight match will be Elbiali’s first headlining appearance.
“I feel everything happens for a reason,” Elbiali said. “In life in general, not just boxing, people are in line waiting for their turn. This is my turn and opportunity to shine.”
Elbiali acknowledges the level of opposition from his first 16 matches takes a leap forward against Pascal, a native of Haiti now living in Canada. Pascal (31-5-1, 18 KOs) had a four-fight, two-year run as World Boxing Council champion. His title reign ended following a loss against Bernard Hopkins in 2011.
“I expect a great fight,” Elbiali said. “Pascal is a talented, more experienced veteran fighter who has power in both hands. But I have to think about Ahmed not Jean Pascal and what I will do against him.
“I think he’s going to be ready for what I throw his way. Whatever experience he has on fight night, God willing, I can take with me to future fights.”
Elbiali was born in Egypt and moved with his family to the United States when he was 4. The family eventually settled in Aventura, where Elbiali learned football and played defensive end and linebacker at Krop.
But during his teenage years, Elbiali also developed an interest in boxing. “I started watching the ‘HBO Boxing After Dark’ fights and I was hooked,” Elbiali said. “At first my mom was not thrilled about me becoming a boxer, but I gradually won my family’s support.”
Elbiali began his amateur career at 17 and won 36 of 43 bouts. Elbiali estimates a third of his amateur bouts were in Egypt, where he attempted to earn a berth on the 2012 Egyptian Olympic boxing team. However, political unrest prompted a change in plans.
“I considered waiting for the 2016 Olympics, but my team said that would take too much time. So I made the decision to turn pro,” Elbiali said.
“I really dreamed this out. I am getting better and proving who I am. Now I am realizing I can fight for a world championship. It’s better to dream big than not dream at all.”
▪ Miami resident Guillermo Rigondeaux will fight in one of most anticipated bouts of the year Saturday night. Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) will face 130-pound champion Vasyl Lomachenko at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Rigondeaux and Lomachenko are two-time Olympic gold medalists. And, although Rigondeaux and Lomachenko have a combined 27 professional bouts, both are considered among the 10 best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.
For Rigondeaux, a reigning 122-pound champion, the fight poses an imposing obstacle as he will ascend two weight divisions to face Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KOs).
“I went up to 130 [pounds] because it was the only way I could get this fight made,” Rigondeaux said in a conference call last week. “I would rather it have been at a lower weight, but I want to show the world that I can do it by moving up two weight classes.”
▪ Miguel Cotto’s farewell fight didn’t end as planned. Cotto lost a unanimous decision and his World Boxing Organization junior-middleweight title against Sadam Ali late Saturday in New York.
After the bout, Cotto (41-6, 33 KOs) confirmed his pre-fight announcement that he is retiring after a 17-year career highlighted by world titles in four divisions.
▪ Friday (6 p.m., at Hialeah Park and Casino, 100 E. 32 St., Hialeah): Announced 10-bout card, headlined by Ahmed Elbiali vs. Jean Pascal, 10, light heavyweights; tickets range from $30 to $125; 1-877-840-0457.
▪ Saturday (9 p.m., ESPN): Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux, 12, for Lomachenko’s WBO junior-lightweight title
▪ Saturday (10:20 p.m., HBO): Orlando Salido vs. Miguel Roman, 10, junior lightweights.