Nobody disputes that boxing is tough, very tough. For Nico Ali Walsh Living up to your grandfather’s name could be even more difficult. After all, he was the biggest. “He’s just my grandfather and it’s as simple as that,” Ali Walsh said. “So it’s hard for me to see it as anything else.” The grandfather, if you haven’t discovered him yet, is Muhammad Ali. And the grandson is about to embark on a journey bordering on the impossible: making a name for himself in the ring while bearing the name of his legendary grandfather.
The 21-year-old fights for the first time as a professional Saturday night in a scheduled four-round middleweight fight at Oklahoma. He will do it on national television not because of something he has done in boxing, but because he is descended from greatness. And it will face Bob arum, who promoted Ali in some of his biggest fights and is now promoting his grandson.
“He is Ali’s grandson and who knows what is in his DNA”
Arum is honest about the potential of Ali walsh, but he denies the idea that the fight is likely more of a gimmick than the start of a long career. “He is Ali’s grandson and who knows what is in his DNA. You can’t completely rule out genetics. “
Ali Walsh himself understands that he has a chance because of his name. But the college student fought as an amateur and believes he has the skills to be a great fighter. And while he doesn’t have the bombastic charisma of his grandfather, he’s an attractive young man in his own right.
“All boxers feel the pressure to fight for their lives”
“Everyone mentions pressure, but each occupation has its own pressure,” says Ali Walsh. “Mine may seem a little more meaningful to others, but all boxers feel the pressure to fight someone, to fight for their lives, basically. And that’s how I see it. “
Growing up in Las Vegas, Ali Walsh and his family regularly traveled to the area of Phoenix to visit his grandfather. Ali Walsh said the two formed a bond, even as Ali struggled to communicate in his final years before he died in 2016. Once, he recounted, they were in a car together and Ali Walsh was interested in boxing, wondering if he should continue with. his hobby. He said he asked Ali to squeeze his hand if he thought he should continue. “I was always holding her hand, so some days I would take her hand and say, squeeze it if you want me to bring you some water or do something else for you,” he said.
Wade Vandervort / AP
“Some days I couldn’t speak, so I would squeeze my hand. And I was into boxing. I was thinking of quitting. I was like, what did I get myself into? But it pushed me forward. And I still remember that moment to this day. “
“My grandfather pushed me forward”
Much of Ali Walsh’s family will be present in Tulsa for his debut, which will be televised on the undercard of Top Rank on ESPN. That includes his mother, Rasheda, and her grandmother, who was Belinda boyd when she married Ali when she was 17 years old.
“My whole family is very supportive. Sometimes it was difficult for my mother to see me come home with a black eye or a bloody nose, as would happen to any mother. But she is very supportive,” explains Ali Walsh, who assures have seen most of his grandfather’s fights on tapes.
“He did things conventionally wrong, like putting his hands down and doing other things that they don’t teach in a boxing gym. My style is … I wouldn’t say aggressive, but definitely not passive. It should be exciting for people to watch.”
For Arum, 89, it will be a trip back in time. He was the promoter when Ali fought against George chuvalo in 1966, a fight that started his legendary boxing career.