Muhammad Ali's grandson, Nico Ali Walsh, is making his pro boxing debut Saturday ... a fight that never would've happened if Muhammad didn't stop his grandson from quitting the sport years ago, Nico tells TMZ Sports.
We talked to the 21-year-old, 0-0 fighter -- who's taking on 4-1 Jordan Weeks Saturday night in Oklahoma on ESPN+ -- and asked him about following in the footsteps of the most famous and beloved fighter of all-time.
"Everyone wants to compare me to my grandfather, I really appreciate it. I wish I looked like my grandfather, but nobody will look like him. I will not look like and nobody will ever look like him," Nico tells us.
Ali Walsh -- who was born in 2000 (19 years after Muhammad retired) -- says he almost quit the sport back in the day ... but Ali wouldn't let him.
"I would definitely not be boxing if I didn’t get [Muhammad's] blessing, so to speak. I asked him if I should be boxing, and you know, because at the time I wanted to quit boxing."
"It was getting a little tough, I was like 14. But, he didn’t let me quit. He kept pushing me to continue, continue, continue. And, I kept wanting him to tell me to quit, so I could. But, he didn’t let me."
FYI, Nico's mom is Rasheda Ali Walsh, Muhammad's daughter. The Ali Walsh family is (no surprise) athletically gifted. Nico's older brother, Biaggio, was one of the top high school football players in Nevada. He is currently on the UCLA football team.
Almost 61 years ago, a crowd of just over 6,000 fans showed up to an arena in Louisville to watch Ali, an unknown fighter at the time, make his pro debut.
He became arguably the most influential athlete of all-time.