*As Grandson, Nico Ali Walsh, Makes Pro Debut
Ernest Omoarelojie with Agency Reports
Grandson of boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, will be making his pro boxing debut this weekend. Nico Ali Walsh, son of Muhammad’s daughter, Rasheda, will walk into the square ropes on Sunday carrying the famous last name of his grabdpa in a fight against Jordan Weeks.
The encounter is the co-main event on Australian Andrew Moloney’s trilogy fight against Joshua Franco in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Born in Chicago 21 years ago, Ali Walsh, who is signed with legendary promoter Bob Arum, has raked in 30 amateur fights. Arum promoted 27 of his grandfather’s bouts. However, the young boxing prodigy is not unaware of why he’s a co-main event on his pro debut hence he has embraced the Herculean challenges that come with being the grandson of perhaps the greatest sportsman of all time.
The real challenge for him however, is that it hasn’t always been easy.
“I would never tell anyone who I was but they’d always find out. And when they did, they’d always try to knock me out or hurt me because they wanted to be able to say, ‘hey, I hurt Muhammad Ali’s grandson. I knocked out Muhammad Ali’s grandson. I say being Muhammad Ali’s grandson is a blessing and a curse and that falls under the curse category,” he once said.
Trying to hide his real physical connection to the great Ali hasn’t been easy either as Walsh has attested to. But in the end, he had to accept who he really is-grandson of a legend, a name he must live up to.
“My last name is Walsh, so I tried to hide behind Walsh. But at some point every coach I had told me that at some point you have to become the name, be the name, and accept it because there was no hiding from it.
I stopped wearing shirts with my grandfather on the front, I had a tattoo of him on my arm and I would start hiding it. But there was no point of hiding it because people would find out anyway. So I embraced the name. I stopped hiding from the name and embraced it when I realised I could not hide from it any longer.”
Of course, Walsh has his reasons for attempting to, almost literally, hide from his shadows.
‘The two biggest reasons were, I didn’t want to be treated any differently and I didn’t want to be looked at as the enemy of all the boxers in whatever gym I was in. Those were the two reasons that really shied me away from embracing my name. But once I realised there was no hiding from it, I chose to embrace it, and that’s where I’m at now.”
The good news about accepting to carry the name and attendant responsibilities is that he has learnt to factor them into his mental attitude to his chosen career.
‘I’ll definitely have a target on my back as a professional. But where I’m at now mentally, I’m able to handle the pressures. And I’m grateful for that because this all started back when I was 10 when I first put on a pair of gloves.”
Yet Walsh is not all about hoping in and out of the boxing ring and gym. The young man who has vivid memories of time spent with his grandfather, Ali, is also fine tuning his academic program being in the final year of a business degree at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
He recalls knowing his grandad, who died in 2016 at 74, after battling Parkinson’s for over three decades, to love magic tricks which he often performed for reporters during interviews. He also recalls how much he bonded over magic and how they also spent time breaking down the fight game during his younger days as an amateur. Walsh now says he can’t forget, even in a hurry, the piece of advise the great legend gave him.
“The biggest piece of advice that I remember the most, he said, ‘moving and dancing makes a fighter’. Moving and dancing isn’t something a lot of fighters do nowadays. Hitting and not getting hit. He did that very well and that’s what I want to emulate the most. But I don’t want to be the same exact fighter he was. I don’t believe there is a way even if I wanted to be. Heis one of a kind.”
Though he can’t claim to be Ali incarnate, no one can, Walsh is certain there is a part of his grandpa that he shares, undeniably.
I’m more similar to him outside of the ring. We have the same kind of sense of humour, telling stupid jokes. He was huge on magic tricks and I’m huge on magic tricks. So we’re similar in that sense. Inside the ring, I’d say we have the same work ethic. His work ethic was outstanding. I emulate that,” he said.
Walsh wants those who loved and still loves his grandpa to look out for him. He promises to continue the old man’s legacy.
“It’s an exciting story – history is repeating itself. If you are a fan of my grandfather’s then I’m sure you’d love to tune in and watch the fight. There’s always been a level of pressure on me because of my name. This is a new level of pressure but grandfather is my grandfather. I don’t have the pressure of continuing the legacy of the great Muhammad Ali because, I’m continuing the legacy of Pappy – my grandfather.”
For promoter Arum, there is something about the young dude that awakes nostalgia.
“He’s a lovely, lovely kid. Very, very well spoken and we’ve had him training with Sugarhill Steward, who is Tyson’s (Fury) trainer and he said the kid has ability,” Arum said.
“We’re going to start him on the road and you’ll see the fight over in the UK. It’s on August 14, and he’ll be on that card.
Then we’ll bring him hopefully to Madison Square Garden, where his grandfather excelled and we can show him in the Garden,” Arum added.
Certainly, the boxing world can’t wait to see another Ali.