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#TBT: On The Eve of Muhammad Ali’s Grandson’s Pro Debut on ESPN, Watch This 1967 Encounter Featuring Chamberlain, Cosell and “The Greatest”

Ali's grandson Ali Walsh makes his pro debut on Top Rank on ESPN Saturday; Front Row raids ABC Sports' archives for this classic interview featuring three legends

Saturday night in Tulsa, Okla., Ali Walsh, 20, makes his pro boxing debut in a scheduled four-round middleweight bout against Jordan Weeks.

Ali Walsh’s bout is part of star-studded Top Rank on ESPN card (ESPN, ESPN Deportes, ESPN+, 10 ET) headlined by Joshua Franco versus Andrew Moloney 3.

But Ali Walsh’s pro debut is noteworthy primarily because the UNLV student is also the grandson of the “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali.

More than a generation after Ali made numerous legendary appearances on ABC’s airwaves in and out of the ring, Ali Walsh adds to the legacy. ESPN’s Joe Tessitore interviewed Ali Walsh during a Top Rank on ESPN telecast earlier this summer; ESPN’s essayist, commentator and reporter Mark Kriegel profiles Ali Walsh in the video below.

Amazingly, Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum – who promoted 27 of Ali’s fights – also represents Ali Walsh.

Arum began promoting Ali in 1966. In 2018, Top Rank signed an exclusive programming deal with ESPN to bring free boxing back to the mainstream that runs through 2025.

On a March 11, 1967 broadcast of ABC’s Wide World Of Sports, Ali and basketball great Wilt Chamberlain entertained the prospect of fighting each other in the ring. With host Howard Cosell and Ali trainers Angelo Dundee and Drew Bundini Brown also in ABC’s studios, Ali and Chamberlain verbally sparred and no doubt stirred even more interest in the bout.

Front Row raided ABC and ESPN’s tape archives to unearth most of the encounter in the video seen at the top of the post. Watch as Hall Of Famer Chamberlain trades barbs with Ali, who even demonstrates the famed “Ali Shuffle” during the interview.

For at least four years, the prospect of the 7-foot, 1-inch Chamberlain fighting the 6-3-1/2 Ali captured the sporting public’s imagination. The deal for the fight reportedly was almost closed in 1971.

But alas, the two legends only traded punchlines, not punches.

Arum and Alis photo seen in tweet above and on Front Row’s front page courtesy of Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Top Rank on ESPN airs live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes (simulcast on ESPN+). The Ali Walsh-Jordan Weeks bout will air live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes (simulcast on ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. The undercard, including a 10-round crossroads bantamweight battle between Jason Moloney and Joshua Greer Jr., will stream live and exclusively on ESPN+ at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT.

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