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Featured Image Credit: Nico Ali Walsh/PA
Introducing Nico Ali Walsh who scored a stunning first-round knockout on his debut. The budding boxing star is the grandson of Muhammad Ali, but he's looking to carve out his own legacy after following in his footsteps.
At just 21, he has the world at his feet. He carries the legacy-filled Ali name, with media pressure and expectations burdening the young prospect.
Ali Walsh, though, isn't your typical boxer. He didn't show an ounce of nerves during his professional bow, smashing Jordan Weeks in one round to record the first of many victories.
The rising middleweight talent has a lot of potential and within minutes of meeting, speaking with him you see maturity well beyond his years.
What a magical night for this young man. His grandfather would have been so proud of the way he's honoring him in his own way.
We at Top Rank are looking forward to leading him on his professional journey. https://t.co/jpfC1yVRve
- Bob Arum (@BobArum) August 15, 2021
He told SPORTbible: "This is all part of the territory. I feel like my grandfather embraced the media and I have to do that as well. If I didn't want to get media, I shouldn't have picked boxing, so, I'm fine with it.
"Nerves are good when you use them and I feel you need a little bit of nerves to perform well. If I wasn't nervous or if I didn't feel any pressure, then I would be really worried. I'm honoured. Blessed to be in the position I'm in and I'll just have to work harder because of it."
However, of course, carrying the Ali name comes with a level of pressure and expectation. Well, if you're the public. He doesn't see it that way.
"For the public, I really do. It brings a lot of expectation, everyone's going to be trying to compare me to my grandfather, which I'm honoured to be compared to him in, if, anyway. But I don't compare myself to my grandfather. I think he's really unique in his own right and I feel like I'll be unique in my own right as well."
Muhammad sadly passed away in June 2016. Ali Walsh is blessed to have had him in his life growing up and hailed the former world heavyweight champion a 'superhero' in a touching tribute.
"I lived in Las Vegas and he lived in Arizona, we were constantly visiting him so there were so many memories. Too many to even recall, but we just had some great, great times together. I'm blessed to have those memories," he said.
"My grandfather is the patriarch of my family. I've always looked up to him as a superhero. Whether he was known in the public or not. He was the only grandfather I had. He's definitely the greatest to me and he's the greatest to everyone else in my family."
But not everyone is as grateful for Muhammad's heroics in the ring. Enter Floyd Mayweather.
The self-proclaimed 'The Best Ever' once ranked Muhammad as the fifth best fighter in his GOAT list.
Is that a bit low considering his achievements inside the squared circle? Ali Walsh reckons so.
Asked about Mayweather ranking Muhammad fifth in his list, he replied: "Yeah, seems incredibly low. I've always gotten the vibe that maybe Mayweather doesn't like him as much as other fighters do, but, it's okay, each to their own.
"Everyone refers to my grandfather as the 'greatest' and Floyd refers to himself as 'TBE'. I feel like anybody in that position would get a little bit upset if everyone's calling someone else the greatest and you think you're the greatest."
It's a completely different story with fellow heavyweight great Mike Tyson, who can't say enough good things about Muhammad.
In fact, Ali Walsh 'loves' Tyson and recalled the time he came out to support him during an amateur contest in 2016.
"We're very close with Mike [Tyson]," he said. "He actually reached out in the amateurs to me and he actually came to one of my fights in the amateurs so that was an incredible honour and he's had nothing but great things to say about my family.
"He called my mum the night of an amateur fight and his wife, Kiki, said 'I heard Niko was fighting' and he showed up and he was cheering me on as I fought."
So, what about a hypothetical match-up between the two boxing icons?
Unsurprisingly, Ali Walsh answered with a little bias. You can't blame him. He reckons his grandfather would have beaten anybody, including King Kong and Superman.
"I'm definitely biased because you're asking his grandson," he joked. "But I think my grandfather beats King Kong, I think he beats Superman. I don't think anybody beats him, but I do love Mike Tyson."
Muhammad vs. King Kong or Superman doesn't sound *too* farfetched considering some of his past bouts. He was the original fighter who participated in exhibitions, facing the likes of Japanese wrestler and MMA fighter Antonio Inoki as well as NFL player Lyle Alzado and NHL player Dave Semenko.
So, naturally, Ali Walsh doesn't hate on the current state of the sport. To an extent, he actually supports fighters looking to make money in their own way.
Even when he had the chance to take a pop at Mayweather for his Logan Paul exhibition, he refused to - but did claim they will never be as big as a traditional fight.
"I don't hate on them; a lot of fighters hate on them," he explained. "I definitely am not one of those guys. Everyone has a right to make money their own way. If Mayweather wants to do exhibitions and fight YouTubers then he can do that and make money for himself. And I don't think you can knock anybody for wanting to make money.
"My grandfather was a part of exhibitions as well, some crazy match-ups so it's not the first time we're seeing it. But it's definitely the first time that it's getting his much publicity and getting this much revenue.
"I definitely wouldn't put them over the boxing events like [Tyson] Fury vs. [Deontay] Wilder or Fury vs. [Anthony] Joshua. it's definitely not bigger than those events, but they are great in their own regard."
While he doesn't want to speak for his grandfather, Ali Walsh reckons he would have thought the same as him.
"I think he would agree with me. I can't speak for him, but I don't think he would be hating on anybody. Everyone's trying to make a career for themselves. I feel like Logan Paul is trying to make a career for himself. I know he's not trying to be a professional boxer, but he's definitely a marketable guy and a showman. I don't think my grandfather would knock him at all for doing that."
Ali Walsh talks with purpose and authority. Its early days having just successfully kicked off his career, yet he's definitely one to keep an eye one.
On his goals and objectives, he added: "I'm just trying to the best fighter that I can be. The greatest fighter that I can be. No matter what that takes. I'm just trying to be great in my own way. I don't know exactly what my plans are for the future, but I'm trying to take every fight one day at a time."
Nico Ali Walsh. Remember the name.