Muhammad Ali’s grandson, Nico Ali Walsh, carries the torch for the legendary boxing name

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His association with Ali not only attracted attention, but as an aspiring boxer, the pressure and expectations of being the grandson of one of the greatest to ever step into the ring.

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However, Walsh didn’t let that pressure get to him as he won his professional debut in August by defeating Jordan Weeks with a first-round stop at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Katosa, Oklahoma.

And ahead of his second bout at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena on Saturday, October 23, Walsh told Granthshala he’s finally starting to embrace the pressure that being related to Ali has had his “entire life.”

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“I’ve always felt the need to be on my best behavior. And it’s really annoying at times, but it just happens,” the 21-year-old told Granthshala.

“And I just recently started embracing the name because I’ve been hiding from it for so long… and I was just running away from the name. But I can’t run from it, especially in sports. So I’m really trying to embrace it. And so I would say it’s something to be more proud of now and I’m blessed that it’s turned out that way because it hasn’t always been like this.”

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But in his first win, Walsh says he has fans of his estranged grandfather reaching out to him, saying he would “bring him back to life.”

“It’s an oddity between me, Sugarhill (Steward, their trainer) and my strength and conditioning coach, they’ve been calling me ‘The Ghost’ since I brought them back. It’s really humbling and it’s something like Which I am very happy to do.”

lucky charm

When Walsh stepped into the ring for his professional debut, he was wearing an item of clothing that he thought might bring him luck.

While ducking down the ropes and into the ring in Oklahoma, Walsh wore white Everlast shorts that previously belonged to Ali and went down after his death in 2016.

Although Walsh never planned to wear shorts; They were only meant as memorabilia in the beginning.

However, after his custom shorts were not ready in time, it just so happened that the only other shorts he had to fight were the other shorts his grandfather had given him.

And being so closely associated with her grandfather for the fight gave her the extra motivation she needed.

“It gave me so much extra excitement. It was just a crazy, crazy night,” he recalls. “And it was one of the many things that made my grandpa come alive on Saturday nights.

“I really feel like he was alive that night. And in many ways, through the chanting in the crowd, they were chanting: ‘Ali,’ which I’ve never seen before. I’ve only seen black and on . white clip on YouTube. But he was alive on Saturday night and it was through me, it was through shorts and it was such a blessing all night. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better night.”

While the shorts brought him some good luck and a little extra energy, after the fight, Walsh said he would not wear them again, although he was not ruling out ending his career in them.

“I wasn’t supposed to wear them my first fight, but luck and luck had it that I had to wear them. And it’s forever locked in history. This is my pro debut. That was the biggest night of my life.” . That was the biggest night of my life. And I want to remember the shorts for being just that, and so I’ll probably never wear them again.”

Ali Walsh punches Jordan Weeks during their fight.

advice

Living in the shadow of one of the biggest names in the game is not something most have to contend with.

For Walsh, when he was growing up, Ali—who had a 56-5 professional boxing record in which he beat stalwarts like Joe Frazier, George Foreman, and Sonny Liston—was just a “grandfather.”

Although his amateur opponents upped their game when they realized who they were sharing the ring with – “If I were to fight an average Joe amateur fighter, he would turn into Joe Frazier when he fought me,” Walsh recalls – It was Ali’s 70th birthday party when he realized how much people outside his family loved his grandfather.

“I went to his birthday party and I was seeing a bunch of celebrities I had only seen on TV. The main one I saw was Ken Jeong. He played Mr. Chow from The Hangover. And I saw him And I said: ‘Mr. Chow was saying happy birthday to my grandfather.’ I was only 11 years old and I loved him. And I was like: ‘Wow, my grandpa must be a special guy.'”

Given his grandfather’s success, being a boxer felt like a “destiny” for Walsh. He remembers trying football for about “48 hours” before he realized the sport was not for him.

After committing himself to boxing, Walsh made sure to take advantage of the knowledge he acquired during his grandfather’s career.

“I always showed him my videos. I always showed him my sparring and my training clips,” Walsh said.

“And I asked him for advice on a particular day that he was talking really well. Because of his position, he didn’t always talk the best, but one day he was talking so fast and so clearly and that Just saying go ahead and dance makes a fighter. And I was just getting advice on what makes a fighter and what should I do to be a good fighter. And he just said : ‘Eat right, do a lot of work on the road.’ And I remember all these things even today.”

Ali Walsh accompanies boxing promoter Bob Arum and poses in front of a photo of his grandfather.

Future

Prior to a media session prior to his debut professionally, Walsh flaunted confidence wearing a T-shirt with Ali’s face emblazoned on it and with his quote – “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as me” – .

And with the advantage of sight, he had a good reason to beat Weeks in the first round.

Coached by Tyson Fury’s trainer Sugarhill Steward and managed by Bob Arum, who spearheaded Ali’s 27 fights, Walsh’s performance belies his experience.

The steward doesn’t reveal the identity of his opponent to Walsh until a few days before their fight, and the young boxer sees the positives behind the strategy.

Although he is at the beginning of his boxing journey, it is important for him not to get ahead of himself.

“My biggest goal is to take one fight at a time and be the biggest Nico I can be, and because I have such high hopes for myself and obviously the whole public has high hopes for me too. That’s a great goal.” To be the best that I can be.”

Ali Walsh trains at Top Rank Gym with Sugarhill Stewards in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Outside the ring, Ali was not afraid to stand up for his faith, even if it had consequences, a trait that is ascribed to Walsh.

“I’ve always been passionate about things outside the ring. The reasons my grandfather stood for are parallel to the reasons I stand for today,” he said.

“And unfortunately, there are still issues, social issues, social injustices that happen to African-Americans in America, and minorities in general. And it’s very unfortunate that it’s still a thing. In the 1960s that The injustices we were fighting for are still prevalent today, just on a different level. It’s more important to me than a fight inside the ring. It’s a fight outside the ring.”

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Credit : www.cnn.com

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