Muhammad Ali grandson Nico Ali Walsh targets ‘best performance’ on Lomachenko-Ortiz undercard
Nico Ali Walsh knew this would be a process. The 22-year-old middleweight just got his bachelor’s degree in business entrepreneurship from UNLV in May. He juggled his classes with his boxing training. Now, he’s plunging his entire focus into boxing. On Saturday, he’ll be embarking on his seventh pro fight and first six-rounder when he takes on 29-year-old Billy Wagner on the undercard of the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Jamaine Ortiz lightweight main event in the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York (ESPN+ 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
Ali Walsh, the grandson of Muhammad Ali, says he’s learning more each time he steps into the ring. Often you hear in sports that somebody “left their game in the gym” or at the practice facility. In boxing, what a fighter may work on in the gym does not always translate into the ring. Ali Walsh (6-0, 5 knockouts) says he’s taking higher percentages of his training into his fights. He’s on a modest three-fight stoppage streak, having beaten Jeremiah Yeager (TKO 2), Alejandro Ibarra (KO 1) and Reyes Sanchez (KO 2) within the distance.
“Since the Yeager fight, that’s when my stuff really started transferring from the gym to the fight, because I’ve been trying to focus on that so much,” said Ali Walsh, the son of Robert Walsh and Rasheda Ali, Muhammad Ali’s second-oldest child, two-and-a-half minutes older than Rasheda’s twin sister, Jamillah. “I would say about 60 percent translated over (from gym training to the fight), and before that it was around 55 percent. The Sanchez fight it was about 65 percent.”
Ali Walsh is now being trained by Kay Komora, who took over for Richard T. Slone, the boxing artist and cutman who worked Nico’s corner for the Yeager and Ibarra fights. Komora, who also trains Mikaela Mayer among other fighters, began working extensively with Ali Walsh in his last two fights.
“Coach Kay brings out my ring IQ more than anything and the gameplan behind fighting, because it’s more than just about fighting,” said Ali Walsh. “You can fight all day. Everyone knows by now I can fight in a telephone booth for hours. That’s not impressive to me, and not impressive to coach K, either. Knowing your shots, placing your shots, that’s what I’ve been working on.”
Ali Walsh admits he does not know much about Billy Wagner. He does know that Wagner (5-2, 1 KO) is tough and that he’ll be walking into the ring with special incentive on Saturday night.
“Everyone brings a new challenge, but like I said many times before, whoever I fight brings the best versions of themselves, because on fight night, it’s me, and they want to be able to beat an ‘Ali,’” Nico said. “I get it. We’ll see what he brings the night of the fight. The way I’ve been training, any kind of problems he brings, I’ll be ready for them. After my last fight, I was back in the gym on Monday. It’s almost like a weakness. I can’t keep myself away from the gym.
“The way I’ve been training, this is going to be my best performance yet.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.