By Paul Mason
The Prince of Peace by Paul Zanon with Mark Prince – Trinity Mirror Sport Media – RRP £12.99
The Prince of Peace is another magnificent boxing book from the pen of the talented Paul Zanon. Zanon already has Jimmy Tibbs, Paul Ingle and Jamie Moore autobiographies amongst his portfolio of work, all figuring highly in the Amazon bestseller charts, with a Martin Murray book to come later this year. This book is no different to the high standards of its predecessors.
The book focuses on Mark Prince, a wayward teen and young adult, who turned his life around through the sport of boxing to become a World Title challenger but would suffer personal heartbreak later on in life.
It is a bittersweet tale of not only boxing, but also of the tragic death of Prince’s young son, promising Queens Park Rangers footballer Kiyan, aged only fifteen, and the subsequent three trials it took to bring his attacker to justice. Kiyan was stabbed at his school in 2006 in an unprovoked attack by Hannad Hassan, a sixteen-year-old Somali refugee. This has subsequently lead to the Kiyan Prince Foundation to be set up in Kiyan’s memory, bringing awareness to children and young adults of the devastating effects of knife crime and being lead down the wrong path. The way the incident and the trials are described are raw, and every detail is given from the day of young Kiyan’s death to the painful three trials the family had to endure to finally hand Kiyan’s cowardly attacker a life sentence. Zanon’s writing style immerses you in the pain the Prince family suffered, and also takes accounts from Mark Prince’s diary written at the time, to give a true perspective on how he was feeling at that awful time.
Prince’s childhood was often turbulent and involved more than a few beatings from his father, who boxed in his native British Guyana as Guyanese Champion, before moving to England aged 20. A whole chapter titled “Dem Beatings” is featured in the book, where the extent of his father’s temper and abuse towards his children is laid bare.
Subsequently, this forced Prince to run away from home aged fifteen, gaining his own flat aged seventeen after eighteen months of sofa surfing, and sleeping in his car. Four wayward years would follow, and it was only an incident with a crack pipe, that finally awoke Prince to the fact his life was spiralling into oblivion.
Prince’s boxing career was tinged with a sense of underachievement. After surpassing himself as an amateur with little experience, he turned professional in 1993, and amassed an impressive unbeaten record, picking up both the IBF and WBO Intercontinental Titles, leading him to challenge for a World Title that maybe came too soon. Just after defeating Bruce Rumbolz in 1997, Prince was offered a fight with Chris Eubank at Light Heavyweight, but unfortunately, the fight never came off, and he was forced to watch Joe Calzaghe take the WBO Super Middleweight crown by beating Eubank in Sheffield and announce himself to the British public. After two further wins, Prince would face the talented and often underrated WBO Light Heavyweight Champion, Dariusz Michalczewski. Prince would be halted in eight rounds in Germany to suffer his only career defeat.
Unfortunately, before Prince could begin to climb the rankings again, his career was curtailed due to a serious knee injury suffered while working in security.
This lead him into retirement and normality, and again having to make ends meet as the career earnings dried up. He worked as a computer salesman, and with the ambulance service, but he also started to do youth work as a volunteer, which he would later come back to full time. He gained several qualifications on the back of this.
It’s at this time the story of his son takes over, and it’s a difficult and emotional read. From a promising footballer, courted by Arsenal and West Ham amongst others, Kiyan eventually settled on Queens Park Rangers, who have been a tower of strength for the Prince Family throughout. His beginnings, the day of his death and the resulting trial are recalled in painful detail. Zanon channels Mark’s words brilliantly.
Following the ordeal, the “KPF” was set up in Kiyan’s memory and is the glue that keeps Mark and others affected together. It’s inspiring that something good has come from something so tragic.
Mark Prince returned to the ring after a near fourteen year hiatus in 2013, to help raise much-needed funds and awareness for the Kiyan Prince Foundation. He racked up another four wins, all at the York Hall, Bethnal Green, his last being a stoppage win over Matthew Ellis in October 2015. He finished with a 23-1 record.
He continues to campaign for, in his own words, “kids who are hurting and need that opportunity to see that they do have greatness in them and can change”. He has lived a life full of twists and turns
A brilliant book, nothing less than what I come to expect from Paul Zanon, and I hope that the Kiyan Prince Foundation gets the funding and support it needs to spread awareness nationwide.