The world lost a sports icon in June 2016 when legendary boxer Muhammad Ali died from septic shock following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Today, his legacy lives on through his talented family tree. In fact, in the span of just a short few years, his grandson has already made headlines for his incredible athletic skill and equally impressive genetic looks. Get to know rising-star Biaggo Ali-Walsh, born Sept. 4, 1998, a name you’re likely hear more of in the years to come.
He’s really into sports (just not the one you might think)
As Ali’s grandson, no one should be surprised to hear that Ali-Walsh was born a natural athlete. However, he chose to pursue football over boxing, climbing the ranks at his Las Vegas high school before joining the University of California, Berkeley’s roster in 2017.
“I was in the second grade, and [I got a football card] at school. I never knew what football really was. [The card] was of Brian Urlacher. One day I turned on the TV, and the Bears were playing, and I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s the guy on my card.’ That’s when I knew what football was,” Ali-Walsh told Sports Illustrated in January 2017. “All my friends were playing flag [football], and I got into flag, and it was fun. In seventh grade, I tried out tackle for the first time, and I didn’t play that much. Eighth grade, I took a year off. But freshman year came around, and in high school I wanted to start it up again, and I guess it worked out from there.”
H’es not into boxing
Boxing just wasn’t in the cards for Ali-Walsh, who admitted to Sports Illustrated that he never took to the sport as a kid.
“Me and my brother would train in boxing when we were really young with our uncle, and Nico found a passion for it,” he said. “But I didn’t feel what he felt. I was 9, Nico was 7 or 8.” He told Bleacher Report, “I feel like boxing isn’t in my type, because I like a team sport. I like [to] have the links to a chain [to] build up a team.”
Don’t mispronounce his name
Ali-Walsh is the son of the boxing great’s daughter, author Rasheda Ali, and her husband, chef Bob Walsh. According to Sports Illustrated, Ali-Walsh got his first name, “Biaggio,” from his Sicilian-born great-grandfather on his dad’s side. “It’s a very Italian name,” he told the magazine. “Sometimes it gets mispronounced. Often, actually. They say Bellagio, like the hotel.”
Given the fact that he grew up in Las Vegas, that had to be annoying.
He hid his family’s legacy from his classmates
Growing up with “The Greatest” in your family tree can be both a blessing and a curse, so it makes sense that Ali-Walsh wasn’t shouting his family’s legacy from the rooftops when was just a little kid.
“Back then, it was a huge secret who our grandfather was,” Ali-Walsh told ESPN. “If we liked you enough, we would tell you. But we kept it a secret, because we didn’t want people to be me and Nico’s friends just because of who we were related to.”
That changed in 2007, when Ali made a surprise visit to one of Ali-Walsh’s fourth-grade basketball games. “Everybody just stopped what they were doing and looked,” Ali-Walsh told ESPN. “The ref was like–’what the …?'”
He was very close to his grandfather
Ali-Walsh enjoyed a “great” relationship with his grandfather. “Every Thanksgiving and every time we got the chance, we’d drive out to Arizona or fly to Michigan and spend time with him,” he told Sports Illustrated. “He loved magic tricks, so Nico would bring his magic kit, and we would show him cool tricks. He loved it. [A couple] Thanksgivings, he came over to Vegas.”
“Growing up, being around him, he was a grandfather,” he told ESPN. “But to the public, he was an icon. I would watch videos of my own grandfather on YouTube. And then we’d go over on Thanksgiving and see him in person. This is the guy I was just watching on YouTube! That was crazy–I’d trip out like that.”
Ali-Walsh said the pre-match trash-talking that Ali was often (in)famous for was really just an act. “He had to talk because boxing was more individual,” Ali-Walsh told ESPN. “But behind the cameras, my grandfather was one of the most humble people you’ll ever meet. He definitely talked, and he told us that he talked a lot for people to pay, for the entertainment aspect of it. That’s why he did the talking. So it would sell.”
He’s a model
Given how attractive and charming his grandfather was, it should come as no surprise that Ali-Walsh is quite the looker himself. In June 2016, Ali-Walsh confirmed on Twitter that he was signed to acclaimed modeling agency Wilhelmina.
As for how the whole modeling thing started, Ali-Walsh told Sports Illustrated, “When I was about 5 years old, I was with Ford Chicago. When we moved to Vegas, things just didn’t work out. So I was done with [modeling]. Then, I think it was in March of last year, I got a [Twitter direct message] from an agent with Wilhelmina Models. He said that he was from Wilhelmina, and he was interested in signing me as a model. I didn’t know what Wilhelmina was. So I researched it, and it turned out it was a huge agency, so I went to my parents, and we tried to get things going.”
He has tattoos in honor of Ali
Ali-Walsh has honored his grandfather’s legacy through a series of tattoos. According to TMZ, Ali-Walsh got tattoos on his forearms in December 2016–one arm has a butterfly and the other sports a bee. The tattoos pay homage to his grandfather’s famous quote, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
His mother doesn’t want him to play football
Speaking to ESPN in 2017, Ali-Walsh’s mother, Rasheda Ali-Walsh, shared concerns about her sons playing professional sports–fears that were no doubt influenced by her father’s long battle with Parkinson’s disease, which doctors say was caused by boxing.
“I don’t want Biaggio to play football and I don’t want Nico to box,” she confessed. “I want them to swim or play golf or something that wouldn’t worry me as much. But then I realize: What if my grandmother had taken away my dad’s dream from him in boxing?” She continued, “My dad loved boxing so much, but he should have retired a lot sooner. He didn’t want to say goodbye to boxing. He let boxing say goodbye to him.”
He’s big on social media
Like basically every other millennial out there, Ali-Walsh is very active on social media. He has more than 20,000 followers and counting on Twitter, while his Instagram account boasts more than 100,000.
His Instagram offers an especially close look at the youngster’s life, where he posts photos with friends, modeling shots, and snaps from football games. If you have about four mindless hours to spare, you can follow him up.