Muhammad Ali’s Grandson Nico Ali Walsh Will Box


Nico Ali Walsh did not start boxing, although his grandfather, Muhammad Ali, was a three-time heavyweight champion and one of the greatest fighters in history.

And 21-year-old Ali Walsh says that although people on both sides of his family have deep ties to the sport, none of his relatives forced him to box professionally. Aunt, Laila Ali, went professionally 24-0 from 1998 to 2007. Uncle Mike Joyce manages the fighters and runs the Celtic Boxing Club in Chicago.

Instead, Ali Walsh, who grew up in Las Vegas, said he came to love the sport for himself and handle the family baggage that comes with it. He is scheduled to make his professional debut on Saturday night in Okla, Tulsa, televised by ESPN. He admits his connection to Muhammad Ali created the buzz that landed his first professional fight on an ESPN card. But he also struggles to find the balance between honoring his grandfather’s name and establishing his own.

“No matter what sport I played, I could never escape my grandfather,” Ali Walsh said in an interview. “I’m starting to embrace it. It’s very difficult to do, but you have to embrace the legacy no matter what. It gets stronger when everyone embraces what is destined.”

Competing as middleweight, Ali Walsh took advantage of his family networks when he decided to turn pro. Joyce will lead Ali Walsh, who in June signed a contract with Top Rank headed by Bob Arum, the first to promote a boxing event in March 1966. Is it the main event? Muhammad Ali’s title defense against George Chuvalo.

“Promoting Ali’s grandson would be the last thing I would think of,” Arum said. “Who would have believed that 55 years later I would still be promoting boxing?”

Ali Walsh is the son of Robert Walsh and Muhammad Ali’s daughter Rasheda Ali Walsh. His brother, Biaggio Ali Walsh, runs for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and his entire family is aware of the potential rewards and dangers of boxing. Muhammad Ali earned at least $60 million in his 21 years as a professional, but suffered terrible beatings in the second half of his career and showed signs of brain damage even before that Found to have Parkinson’s disease in 1984. Ali died in 2016.

“They didn’t want to see their son get hurt but they can’t force me not to box,” said Nico Ali Walsh. “You always ask me, ‘Are you sure?’ they would ask.”

Joyce isn’t worried that her nephew just wants to take advantage of nepotism and make money off his famous name. Last year, Ali Walsh spent six months training with veteran trainer Abel Sanchez in Big Bear Lake, California, and essentially apprenticed at a gym filled with serious professional boxers.

“He told me about it over a year ago, but I didn’t think he was ready,” Joyce said. “But by going to that training camp, he proved to me that he had what it took to be a professional fighter. He proved to me that he wanted to do the job.”

While multi-generational boxing families are common, intergenerational world championships are rare. Wilfredo Vazquez won three world championships in the 1980s and 1990s, and his son Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. He won a 122-pound championship in 2010. But father-son world champions outnumber families like Fraziers. his son, Marvis, was an extreme competitor known for his losses to Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson in the 1980s.

When Ali Walsh first joined a boxing gym as a kid, Muhammad Ali would often FaceTime his workouts. Ali Walsh said his grandfather would give advice, but never tried to shape him as a warrior. While Floyd Mayweather Jr. fought like a stronger, more versatile version of his father, Floyd Sr., Ali Walsh never learned to imitate Ali in the ring.

“Hands down, chin in the air – things you shouldn’t be running from, he got away with it,” said Ali Walsh, a business student at UNLV. “He was special in that sense. I’m not trying to imitate that.”

Still, Ali Walsh’s ancestry has already shaped his career. Despite his sparse amateur career, he turns pro at ESPN and already has a sponsorship deal with equipment manufacturer Everlast.

Joyce points out that Ali Walsh’s high profile makes matchmaking difficult. Joyce says that if Ali Walsh takes the pro out of the spotlight, he can match him more strategically against record-losing fighters in fights that might not be fun, but will teach Ali Walsh the nuances of professional boxing. But since Ali Walsh is already on television, Joyce says he needs to make every match a learning experience for Ali Walsh and an engaging product for the audience. On Saturday, Ali Walsh will face Jordan Weeks, 29, who went 4-1 in his last match after he was knocked out by a boxer with a 1-6-1 record.

“Every man should have a winning record and every man should have something TV would approve of,” Joyce said. “That’s the downside. He has to stand up in every fight, just as his opponents would. They’re fighting Muhammad Ali on their minds, and if they beat Ali’s grandson, they’ll get all the credit.”

It’s not clear where Ali Walsh’s career is going, even for him and his managers. Arum praises Ali Walsh’s work ethic and dedication, but recognizes the long shot at winning a world title.

“It’s a work in progress,” Arum said. “Are we optimistic? Yup. But we are also realistic.”

Hoping to start a post-boxing film career, Ali Walsh likens himself to Adonis Creed, the onscreen son of fictional boxer Apollo Creed and protagonist of the “Creed” film series. The fast-footed, quick-handed, trash-talking heavyweight champion Apollo Creed from the “Rocky” movies is based on Ali, who defeated Chuck Wepner, causing Sylvester Stallone to write the script.

And in the first “Creed” movie, Adonis fights in underground fights without permission, not because he needs it – he has a comfortable life and an office job – but because he wants to solve an unfinished family business. The goal for Adonis Creed was a world championship. For Ali Walsh, this is fighting well enough to feel his grandfather would be proud.

“For me, success is legacy,” he said. “This can be done without headers. This can be done without any wealth. I’ll know when I do this. I will know when I feel proud and successful.”


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