21-year-old boxer Nico Ali Walsh, grandson of the legendary pugilist and statesman Muhammad Ali, likely heard his grandfather’s famous chant of “Rumble, young man, rumble!” as he made his pro boxing debut against Jordan Weeks. Walsh actually donned shorts which were originally made for Ali and then given to Walsh by “The Greatest” himself before outclassing Weeks at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Oklahoma with 1:49 remaining in the first round.
“This lived up completely to my expectations,” Walsh said after the fight. “It’s been an emotional journey, this whole ride. Obviously, my grandfather, I’ve been thinking about him so much. I miss him.” He later shared that he plans to retire the shorts for good as well.
Walsh sat with Sky Sports prior to the bout and talked at length about his granddad. Although the masses may know Ali as one of history’s most memorable larger-than-life icons, that was also the man Walsh affectionately called “Poppy. ”
“I am trying to make my family proud, and my grandfather proud,” he said, adding that “[t]he pressure is not upholding the legacy of the greatest boxer of all time. The pressure is of continuing the legacy of my grandfather, someone so important to me, who was the patriarch of my family.”
Walsh might be the first grandchild of Ali’s to professionally step within the squared circle, but the Las Vegas middleweight acknowledged that the love and skills for boxing might be in the genes. And it’s hard to counter that statement when your aunt is also four-time undefeated boxing world champion Laila Ali, who finished her career with an unblemished 24-0 record and holds 21 knockouts.
However, Walsh’s promoter Bob Arum believes the young man is up to the task and swears this is not a gimmick. In fact, the first fight that Arum promoted was for Muhammad Ali versus George Chuvalo in 1966, five-and-a-half decades ago.
Arum has literally had a ringside view of it from the start and now gets to watch the family tradition live on. “It’s really on [Walsh’s] shoulders, carrying on the legacy of the greatest fighter of all time,” he told Sky Sports, “but if anybody can handle it, I think this kid can handle it.”