NEW YORK — Carl Williams — a former heavyweight champion who built a reputation for climbing into the ring with the best fighters of his era, including Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson — died April 7 in Valhalla, N.Y. He was 53.
The cause was complications of throat cancer, said his sister, Shirl Parsons.
Mr. Williams, who stood 6 foot 4 and was known for a rock-solid jab, 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 Mr. Williams in May 1985 to win the International Boxing Federation title in Reno, Nev.
At the time, Mr. Williams was a relative unknown, though he had entered the bout having won his first 16 professional fights.
‘‘I underestimated the Truth that night,’’ Holmes said in a interview Monday. ‘‘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 Mr. 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.’’
Mr. Williams managed to rebound by winning six of his next seven fights, including an impressive victory over Bert Cooper in 1987 to capture the vacant US Boxing Association heavyweight title, a national title that carried more clout then than it does today.
Mr. Williams defended the USBA title three times, including a victory over the highly regarded Trevor Berbick, before meeting Tyson in Atlantic City, N.J., in July 1989, for the undisputed heavyweight championship. Just 93 seconds into their fight, Tyson connected with a vicious left hook that dropped Mr. Williams. The referee stopped the fight.
Mr. Williams, a resident of Queens, retired in 1997 with a career record of 30-10.