Nico Ali Walsh, a grandson of the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr), takes pride in his contributions, having taught his grandfather some magic tricks. There was the fake thumb gimmick, the card tricks and the disappearing acts. However, five years after his grandfather died at 74, Ali Walsh is looking forward to adding to the family legacy as he embarks on his own pro career. The 21-year-old middleweight will make his professional debut on ESPN as part of the main card of Saturday’s fight between Joshua Franco and Andrew Moloney in Tulsa.
“I see the pressure living up to the name,” Ali Walsh told Yahoo Sports. “… I’ve had to live with this pressure my whole life. So whether it’s boxing or school or anywhere in life, I’m always compared to my grandfather. Obviously, I’m more heavily compared to him if I’m picking the same exact sport that he was in, but I’ve felt this pressure my whole life.”
The grandson of the phenomenal boxer was born in Chicago but spent most of his life in Las Vegas, where he attends UNLV.
As a child, he bonded with Muhammad Ali over those magic tricks and was always surrounded by boxing, in which his “Poppy” became a global icon and activist. Ali Walsh’s mother, Rasheda, is Ali’s daughter; his aunt, Laila Ali, is considered one of the greatest female boxers of all time; and his uncle, Mike Joyce, is a boxing trainer.
Ali Walsh took part in charity fights at 10 and joined the amateur circuit at 14, earning the reluctant support of his mother, who told the Las Vegas Sun that she “wasn’t surprised, but I wasn’t really 100% head-over-heels for the idea.”
As he progressed through his amateur career, Ali Walsh talked to his aunt, an undefeated world titleholder who retired in 2007, about the pressure of fighting under their family name.
“She understood the pressure of someone in the family who’s trying to continue the legacy,” he said. “… She understood that people want to be able to knock out Muhammad Ali’s daughter or Muhammad Ali’s grandson. You’ll be fighting the best versions of whoever you’re fighting when you’re in those shoes. It’s really important because it just shows how serious it is to take on this legacy and how serious your opponents will take it.”
The grandson of Muhammad Ali is fighting a four-round bout today against 29-year-old Jordan Weeks (4-1). The contest was organised by Top Rank, which is headed by boxing promoter Bob Arum.
The first fight Arum promoted was Muhammad Ali’s 1966 title defence against George Chuvalo. He went on to promote another 26 of Ali’s fights until 1978.
Muhammad Ali, who for years suffered from Parkinson’s disease, died of septic shock in 2016.