Nico Ali Walsh needed just 2 minutes, 50 seconds Saturday night to turn a chorus of boos into a cacophony of cheers inside MGM Grand Garden.
Ali Walsh, the grandson of sporting icon and heavyweight legend Muhammad Ali, flatenned Alejandro Ibarra with a counter right to the chin to score a first-round technical knockout and ignite his hometown crowd in the first fight on the televised undercard.
The Las Vegas native and Bishop Gorman graduate turned middleweight boxer extended both in arms in celebration, prompting “Nico!” cheers throughout the iconic venue.
“This is just a testament to all the work I put in,” Ali Walsh, 21, said afterward. “Stuff like this happens when you put the work in.”
The results are fairly obvious for Ali Walsh (5-0, four knockouts), who signed last summer with Top Rank despite limited amateur experience and debuted professionally in August. He won his first four fights, displaying palpable power — and fundamental flaws that were nearly exposed in December during a fight against Reyes Sanchez.
But he was much more polished Saturday and operated as the aggressor against Ibarra after walking to the ring to the tune of boos from his hometown spectators.
Ali Walsh began the fight by winging bombs, moving in and out of range as he kept Ibarra off balance. A soft left Ibarra vulnerable to a counter, and Ali Walsh landed a right, ending the fight at the 2:50 mark.
“I was setting him up with the right hand,” Ali Walsh said. “I noticed his left hand was going down when he threw the jab. I was trying to counter it, and that’s what I did. I wish the best for him and his team. He’s a true warrior. But I just waited for that setup, and I saw it and I took advantage”
In the co-feature, Olympic silver medalist Keyshawn Davis (5-0, four KOs) looked every bit like the future superstar he’s touted to be, stopping Esteban Sanchez (18-2, eight KOs) 2:44 into the sixth-round of their lightweight fight.
The 23-year-old Davis, of Norfolk, Virginia, blended power shots around a sharp snapping jab to break Sanchez down over the course of the five-plus rounds.
“I just kept staying steady, staying with my rhythm,” Davis said. “My coach (Brian McIntyre) kept telling me to go the body. I was trying to stab him a lot in the rounds, and honestly,
“I was just picking up round after round. I loved this fight because it challenged me. I felt challenged in the ring. I was happy I got a great performance and the stoppage.”