Nico Ali Walsh, a grandson of Muhammad Ali, doesn’t need to be told about the weight his last name carries.
“I know what my last name means to people because that’s my family,” Walsh said.
His grandfather’s legacy is his guide in the sport of boxing. Not only does Walsh want to embody who he was in the ring, but outside of it as well. His bout Thursday evening at the Celtic Boxing Club of Chicago proves that as all of the proceeds go to the organization Christmas Without Cancer. In all, there will be 10 boxing bouts.
Founder Gerri Neylon started the organization with the simple idea to help families affected by cancer. Starting 14 years ago, Neylon helped one family every Christmas with the cost of cancer treatments.
“Every year it just got bigger,” Neylon said. “I’d come home and there would be gift cards and checks in my mailbox. It got a little bigger every year so I decided to make it a non-profit organization.”
In 2017, Neylon and her organization helped 17 families during the holidays.
On Thursday night, Neylon and Christmas Without Cancer teamed with the Ali family for what they hope will be their biggest event yet. The draw being Ali’s grandson as the featured fighter.
Walsh was told about the cause by his uncle Mike Joyce, who runs the Leo High School boxing program. When Walsh heard about the event, he couldn’t turn down the chance to return to Chicago to box in front of his family and serve the community.
“It was an opportunity for me to get a fight here,” Walsh said. “It’s hard to find (amateur) fights in Vegas so it was the perfect opportunity to come here and box for a good cause.”
Walsh’s mother, Rasheda Ali Walsh, will be ringside as her son fights St. Rita product Ryan Clancy. Seeing her son in the ring connects her and the rest of her family to their father.
“My dad is going to be here in spirit as Nico gets in the ring fighting for a great cause,” Rasheda said. “That is in tandem with what my dad did. Service to others is something my dad did in and out of the ring. I think he would be very proud of Nico taking and carrying on his legacy.”