Nico Ali Walsh makes his return to the ring for the fifth time this weekend against Alejandro Ibarra on April 30th. The grandson of Muhammad Ali, Ali Walsh has taken the steps to carve his own legacy while also honoring what his family has done in the sport of boxing.
Watch this interview with Nico Ali Walsh on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform below!
As mentioned, Ali Walsh is preparing for his fifth fight and the opponent is currently Ibarra. But, like his last fight, he’s ready to fight and is not expecting an opponent change, but is preparing for the scenario should it happen again. Sadly, these things are part and parcel in the times of COVID-19.
“That’s currently who it’s supposed to be if nothing happens. From my last fight, the guy I was supposed to fight got COVID in the last five days and the opponent switched.”
At such a young point in his career, Nico Ali Walsh is aiming to stay as active as possible. In the last year’s time since turning pro, Ali Walsh has fought four and soon to be a fifth time. But he says the works not done for his first year as a professional boxer and plans to do even more.
“I don’t like taking time off and they’ve just been keeping me active.” Continuing, Ali Walsh said, “For sure, minimum four time. It’s not going to be anything less than four, it can’t. But it will be, before August, I’ll fight another two times. It will be April 30th and then I’ll fight again before August.”
In his third pro fight, Ali Walsh was taken the distance against Reyes Sanchez which was on the undercard of Vasyl Lomachenko versus Richard Commey. After winning his first two by knockout, many pointed to this fight to be a failure of sorts for Nico Ali Walsh. But he doesn’t see it that way and that fight going the distance is a blessing for his experience.
“The old saying is there’s a blessing and curse with always knocking people out or stopping people. You don’t want to get used to that because once you get to the level of competition that I’m striving to get to, you’re not going to be knocking out everybody. I’m not a heavyweight. You look at Canelo and GGG, nobody is getting knocked out. It’s a chess match and it’s going to be a great fight. You don’t want to get used to that and I’m glad I got that experience of the full four rounds. Yeah, it’s made me a better fighter.”
Nico Ali Walsh and Muhammad Ali: The Comparison
Of course, Ali Walsh gets questions about his grandfather all the time. Repeated questions on the same thing can often get annoying. But for him, it’s not a bother and simply something he’s grown up with.
“I don’t, sometimes it does get a little weird. But at the end of the day, it’s family, it’s like someone asking me about my mom all the time so I’m used to it at this point.”
It seems like any time Nico Ali Walsh fights, the narrative shifts to his grandfather, the great, late Muhammad Ali. But, Ali Walsh says his grandfather’s shadow doesn’t just engulf him. Muhammad Ali had become such a large beacon of hope, it hangs over not just him when he fights, not just heavyweight champions like Tyson Fury who just defended against Dillian Whyte this weekend, but every boxer to ever step in the ring. But for Ali Walsh, his grandfather does not put any weight on his shoulders despite what one might think.
“Honestly, believe it or not, it doesn’t. It actually gives me more confidence. It gives me purpose. It doesn’t give me any additional pressure that I have to live up to somebody. I think it actually helps; it does the opposite of what people think.” Following up, Nico Ali Walsh says, “There’s a great quote that went something along the lines of ‘The brightest lights cast the darkest shadows.’ That’s something that I basically live by. I’m in the shadow of my grandfather. It seems like the whole boxing world is in the shadow of my grandfather. But that is because he was the brightest light. It’s a hard shadow to get out of. Once you embrace it, it’s something I’m proud of now. It’s powerful to me to be fighting for that legacy.”
Despite his family and their ties to boxing, Nico Ali Walsh hasn’t always wanted to box. Seeing the cost from Muhammad Ali and his aunt, Laila Ali, and asked himself if he truly wanted to box. While he loved boxing, the road as a boxer is tough and Ali Walsh wasn’t sure if it was a life path he wanted to take. But it was his grandfather who kept him involved in the sport. To Ali Walsh, it was the correct decision.
“When I was young, I kind of had an idea of the long journey it would take to become a boxer and the hard work and the pressure. I kind of had that idea and I thought, ‘Is this something I really want to do?’ I was actually going to stop boxing but my grandfather kept me from stopping. I kept boxing. I loved it, I was just afraid of the potential journey that I had to take. But I’m very glad that I just kept going.”
As a middleweight, Nico Ali Walsh looks at the best the division has seen and, while has moved on from middleweight, speaks of Canelo as the best boxer of a generation and would be honored to take some time to spar together.
“I think Canelo is the greatest fighter of my time, I think he’s the greatest fight of my generation. If that would ever happen, that would be something that I could tell my kid’s kids. Just to share a gym with him would be an honor. I don’t know if that would ever happen, but he’s the best of my generation.”
As a student of the sport of boxing, Ali Walsh has also studied Canelo and talks about his improvement of his skills from the beginning of his career to now.
“It’s awesome to see him. He definitely didn’t start off like that. It’s great to see the come up because I watched a ton of his early fights. His early fights he looked normal, he looked human. Now he looks like an alien. He just looks like someone that was born for this. It’s great to see that rise that he’s made.” On Canelo taking on Bivol, Ali Walsh says, “I think he gets it done with anyone he wants, honestly. That’s where I’m at with Canelo right now.”
The Big Question: Muhammad Ali vs. Mike Tyson
In heavyweight boxing, much discourse has been made over the hypothetical bout between Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. Of course I had to take a moment to jest with Nico Ali Walsh about the fan-favorite matchup. His answer, as you could imagine, would not surprise anyone.
“I love Mike Tyson, but there’s no way I could pick against my grandfather. Definitely my grandfather would win that fight. I am biased, but even if I wasn’t, I think he gets the job done in that fight. I think Mike Tyson agrees, too.”
Don’t miss Nico Ali Walsh this weekend on Top Rank Boxing as he looks to continue his unbeaten record to 5-0. He takes on Alejandro Ibarra in a middleweight bout on ESPN+.