MANSFIELD — Prince Charles Williams put Mansfield on the boxing map during the late-1980s and early-90s.
His hometown said thank you Sunday afternoon.
GALLERY: Prince Charles Williams Street Dedication
More than 100 people gathered at the New Community Temple Church of God in Christ on Sunday for the dedication of Prince Charles Williams Street. The section of Harker Street between Springmill Street and Bowman Street was renamed after Williams, the Mansfield boxer and former International Boxing Federation world champ. (photos by Curt Conrad, staff reporter)
The former International Boxing Federation light heavyweight world champion spent much of the afternoon reminiscing with a group of more than 100 fans, friends and family at the New Community Temple Church of God in Christ near the intersection of Harker Street and Springmill Street on the city’s north side. The section of Harker between Springmill and Bowman was recently renamed Prince Charles Williams Street.
Sunday’s dedication ceremony was part ribbon-cutting and part community celebration complete with a proclamation read by Mayor Tim Theaker and an appearance by longtime Williams friend and former heavyweight champ Tony Tubbs and his brother Nate. Williams even brought his coveted IBF World Championship belt for some photo opportunities.
“This is the thrill of a lifetime,” said Williams, who held the IBF world light heavyweight title from 1987 until 1993. “To come from a small town like Mansfield, I really appreciate it.
“I never forgot where I came from, even when I made it. I trained in Philadelphia, but I still recognized Mansfield as my hometown.”
Mansfield City Council in April approved legislation to rename the section of Harker Street after Williams. Mayor Theaker was on hand to present Williams with a proclamation.
“It is just about time we honored Prince Charles, who represented Mansfield as a world champion,” Theaker said. “The city is proud of Charles and all that he accomplished.”
The 59-year-old Williams was born in Columbus, Mississippi on June 2, 1962. His mother moved the family over 700 miles north to Mansfield, Ohio, when he was seven years old.
He followed older brother Joe's footsteps into the boxing ring right here in Mansfield and had a brief but outstanding amateur career, going 34-2 and finishing runner-up to Tony Ayala at the 1977 Junior Olympics as a 15-year-old.
He made his pro debut in 1978, less than a month after his 16th birthday. That's a painfully young age to begin a pro boxing career, and he took his lumps early.
But eventually Prince found his way, and in spectacular fashion. He brought Mansfield along for an unforgettable ride.
In a stunning upset, Williams captured the IBF world light heavyweight title with a ninth-round TKO of Bobby Czyz in Atlantic City in June of 1989. It was an epic brawl, Prince was a heavy underdog but rose from two early knockdowns to hammer shut Czyz’s right eye, which forced the referee to stop the action at the conclusion of nine brutal rounds.
Williams defended his belt eight times before finally relinquishing the crown in 1993 to an awkward lefty named Henry Maske in the challenger's home country of Germany -- with the champ's handlers heavily questioning the decision.
Prince retired in 1996 with a career record of 37-7-3 with 28 knockouts.
Today he works with his north-side Mansfield church and keeps an eye on his family. He has been married for 32 years, has two children and four grandchildren.
“When I was growing up, I never imagined I would have a street named after me,” Williams said. “I always knew in my heart I would be a champ. I had a T-shirt that said, ‘Future Champ,’ and I wore it every day to remind me what my goal was.
“It’s even more special to celebrate with all these people. It means the world to me.”