Ziyad Almaayouf Reflects on Boxing Journey as Pro Debut Nears

A true citizen of the world at just 22 years old, Ziyad Almaayouf grew up in Egypt, has Saudi Arabian roots, and now makes his home in Los Angeles, where he’s lived and trained since 2019. “Zizo” was even born in New York, though that might not have been part of the plan.

“My mother was there on vacation and I think it happened by accident,” he said.

So in other words, he spoiled the vacation?

“Yeah, exactly,” he laughs. “But look at it now – they have a star, so it’s all good.”

He may be right. Almaayouf is only making his pro debut against Marlon Hardnick Jr. on Sunday at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, but there is already a buzz about the 140-pounder back home.

“There’s a huge buzz, and social media especially is booming about the whole issue,” he said. “I think it’s the fact that so many people in my same field, or even just normal athletes, this is what they dream of – playing overseas and representing their nations internationally. So there’s a huge buzz and, at a very young age, there are people who are looking up to me, so that’s why I really have to take care of everything I do in and outside the ring. I already know that eyes are on me. In terms of family, my mother, when I have a fight and I’m in camp, she barely sleeps. She’s up all night praying that I win. So I can definitely say that I’m fighting for way more than myself now and it’s way bigger than myself. If it was only for me, I think I would have quit a long time ago (Laughs), but this is bigger than me now. It’s for a lot of people. I’m not just representing a city or a state – I’m representing a whole side of the world and so many countries together.”

On that side of the world that Almaayouf calls home, boxing isn’t exactly the national sport or even one that is producing world-class boxers on a regular basis. So how did he stumble upon it when he was just 10 tears old?

“There are no independent boxing gyms,”he said of growing up in Egypt. “We have sports centers that have all the sports together. So when you’re training, you see all the other sports, too.”

Almaayouf tried out everything, but eventually settled on tennis. That turned out to be temporary.

“I stuck around tennis for a while and I would always see across from the tennis courts were the boxing people,” he said, intrigued by the sweet science and what its practitioners had to do to make sure they could get their work in. “We didn’t have a ring. So the boxing people would do mitts on the track, and for sparring, they would put bodies around to create the ring.(Laughs) I would hear the intensity in the coach’s voice and see it in the matches and their focus, and I’m like, that’s what I want. Only after I got into it was when I found there is history to be written in it for us, and that was the biggest motivator for me because I always wanted to do something that brings pride to my people.”

Deciding to fight was the easy part. Convincing his parents to let him fight was a different story.

“They told me, no,” he laughs. “That was the reaction – a straight-out no.”

Surprisingly, mom was the first one to come around after watching a local film about the sport. She asked her son if this was what he really wanted to do, and once she received a yes, she took him to the training sessions. Meanwhile, Almaayouf’s father was out of the country on business and didn’t know his son was still boxing. Until he did.

“My mom took me to training behind my dad’s back for a whole year until he went to pick up his son from tennis practice and didn’t find him there.”

Almaayouf laughs about it now, but he did get a talking to from his father.

“I really had to show him that I was committed. Not just inside the ring, but outside. What time do you sleep? You don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you take care of your studies.”

The son ticked all the boxes his father wanted ticked, and soon, Almaayouf was off to LA, a place that gives him the opportunity to pursue his fistic dreams.

“Over here, they breed the fighters from when they’re young that they’re going to make it,” he said of the City of Angels. “So it’s installed in their head that you’re going to make it to the pros, you’re going to sign with a big coach, you’re going to win not just a world championship, but two or three. So when they reach those milestones, it’s nothing new. It’s nothing special. But for us, I really embraced that coming from my side of the world because we’re not taught that. We’re not told that we’re gonna make it in the pros, let alone turn pro. We’re not told we’re going to sign with a world-class coach like Buddy McGirt, and we’re not told we’re going to train alongside people like Callum Smith or ‘Blunose’ (Adam Lopez) or (Sergey) Kovalev. It’s crazy to just be around them. So the story is followed as soon as you step outside of the country on the Arab side. You step out and you start competing internationally, and the eyes are on you because you’ve already done something nobody’s done. You’ve already broken the boundary. ‘Whoa, he can do it, so it is possible.’ That’s why people travel and support because it’s something huge for them.”

No pressure, eh?

“I like to perform when the eyes are on me and the pressure’s on because I have no option but to rise up to the occasion,” he said. “I’m ready for all this.”

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