Two weeks’ time couldn’t wither away the adulation that accompanied middleweight prospect Nico Ali Walsh as he left the boxing ring the night of April 30, 2022.
His first-round knockout of Alejandro Ibarra sent the crowd into a frenzy inside the MGM Grand Garden, where “Ali” chants filled the air and filled the Bishop Gorman alumnus — the grandson of boxing legend Muhammad Ali — with additional confidence.
Satisfying as it was, graduating from UNLV in the middle of May couldn’t quite compare to knocking out an opponent to end his first hometown professional fight.
“Graduating from college is such a big accomplishment, but that wasn’t my biggest accomplishment at that time,” Ali Walsh said. “I had so many blessings on my table, I didn’t know which one to be most proud of. But now that college is over, I’m so thankful I have my degree. I don’t have to worry about school and boxing.”
With a bachelor’s degree in business and entrepreneurship, Ali Walsh (8-0, five knockouts) has freed dozens of hours per week to focus on fighting — which he’ll do again Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden on the undercard of Devin Haney and Vasiliy Lomachenko’s undisputed lightweight championship bout.
Ali Walsh has had three fights since beating Ibarra, continuing down Top Rank’s developmental track. His first eight-rounder is scheduled for Saturday against Danny Rosenberger (13-9-4, four KOs), a journeyman from Ohio.
“The biggest amount of pressure that I have going into this fight and into every fight is that I want to show what I’ve been working on. I want to show my growth,” said Ali Walsh, 22.
“That’s pressure that I love. If there was no pressure, I would do awful.”
That said, Ali Walsh is accustomed at this point to fighting at home. He said he wants to showcase improvement he’s developed by taking on fighters with differing styles.
His output and punch selection have improved, he says.
His progress was evident during his last outing Feb. 3, when a patient approach helped him earn a unanimous decision over Eduardo Ayala in his second six-round fight.
“After a fight, no matter what I do — good or bad —I leave with something that I can watch,” Ali Walsh said. “I’m a student of the game. That’s how I’m constantly growing. Because I’m constantly wanting to learn. I’m eager to learn.”
In the lecture hall — and the boxing ring.
“Now that I don’t have school to worry about, my life is 100 percent boxing. Literally 100 percent,” Ali Walsh said. “Based on (my training camp), this will be my greatest performance. … The hard work is never the fight. It’s the training that’s so tough. The fight is just displaying hard work you’ve been doing.”
Who: Devin Haney (29-0, 15 KOs) vs. Vasiliy Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KOs)
What: Undisputed lightweight championship
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: MGM Grand Garden
TV: ESPN+ pay-per-view ($59.95)
Tickets: Beginning at $59 on axs.com
Odds: Haney -270; total rounds 11½ (over -500)