Carl Williams, Champ Who Ducked No One, Dies at 53
By VINCENT M. MALLOZZI
Published: April 15, 2013
Carl Williams, a former heavyweight champion who built a reputation for climbing into the ring with the best boxers of his era, including Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson, died on April 7 in Valhalla, N.Y. He was 53.
The cause was complications of throat cancer, said his sister, Shirl Parsons. Williams, who died at Westchester Medical Center, lived in Jamaica, Queens.
The 6-foot-4-inch Williams, who was known for a rock-solid jab and a bit of a glass jaw, was nicknamed the Truth for his ability to make believers of his opponents and critics.
“He made a believer out of me,” said Holmes, who survived a controversial 15-round unanimous decision against Williams in May 1985 to win the International Boxing Federation title in Reno, Nev.
At the time, Williams was a relative unknown, although he had defeated the well-regarded James Tillis the year before and had entered the Holmes bout having won his first 16 professional fights. Before turning pro in 1982, Williams had twice won New York Golden Gloves championships.
“I underestimated the Truth that night,” Holmes said in a telephone interview on Monday from his home is Easton, Pa. “When I jabbed, he jabbed. We both had similar styles; it was like looking at myself in a mirror. He was strong and tall with a great reach, and I was fortunate enough to wear him down late with a few hard body blows — but not before he gave me a black eye. He really had my number.”
Parsons said Williams “never really got over losing that fight to Holmes.”
“My brother had no fear,” she said, “so when it came to fighting Holmes, he always looked back and thought that he gave the champ a little too much respect that night.”
Williams managed to rebound by winning six of his next seven fights, including an impressive victory over Jesse Ferguson and another over Bert Cooper in 1987 to capture the vacant United States Boxing Association heavyweight title, a national title that carried more clout than it does today.
Wiliams successfully defended the U.S.B.A. title three times — including a victory over the highly regarded Trevor Berbick — before meeting Tyson in July 1989 in Atlantic City for the undisputed heavyweight championship. Just 93 seconds into their fight, Tyson connected with a vicious left hook that dropped Williams. Williams managed to rise on wobbly legs, but the referee stopped the fight.
Williams, who was born in Belle Glade, Fla., on Nov. 11, 1959, but grew up in Queens, retired in 1997 with a career record of 30-10, with 21 of his victories coming by knockout. He was divorced and had been working as a fire safety director for Verizon in Queens.
In addition to Parsons, Williams is survived by his father, Charlie J. Williams; a daughter, Carla; a son, Daniel; and two brothers, Darryl and Kenneth.
“He was a phenomenal fighter with a big heart,” the boxing great Roy Jones Jr. said of Williams. “What earned him the greatest amount of respect was the fact that he never ducked anyone.”