Mark Prince was at work when he got a call to say his son had been stabbed. It was May 2006, and the former IBF and WBO world champion boxer was just settling into a job that was helping him get back on his feet after retirement. And then his world collapsed beneath him.
15-year-old Kiyan had attempted to break up a fight between classmates outside his school, when a large pocket knife was plunged into his heart. As a doctor proceeded into the waiting room to confirm the worst, Mark began swinging fists at the hospital walls in a blind fury, tears streaming. “I made sounds that I’ve never heard before,” he tells The Independent, his voice breaking, “My feelings were gone… and then rage. Rage comes in. Someone needs to pay for this. Who’s killed my son? Who’s taken my son?”
Mark is close to tears once more as he dredges up his emotions, splaying them out across the royal blue seats of Loftus Road. At the time of his death, Kiyan was playing for Queens Park Rangers’ youth team. His first professional contract was just a few months away. He was tipped to play for England, and clubs across London, including Arsenal, had declared their interested. Premier League football wasn’t just a dream, it was slowly turning into an expectation.
Mark’s dream, long before that fatal incident took place, was to eradicate knives from London streets. He had worked with Islington Council, talking to local teenagers about violence. And yet his own son, who accompanied him to those workshops, would be the one to get stabbed.
Years of court cases, resentment, and indescribable pain followed. Mark wanted, and almost acted on, thoughts of revenge. But something inside him brought about an emphatic change, and the Kiyan Prince Foundation was eventually born. As a qualified life coach, and with an OBE for his work, Mark has now returned to guiding susceptible youths away from crime under an organisation in his son’s name.
“When I meet young people and they’re from the roads, and they’re doing dirt, they’re hurt when they see the hurt that I’m going through. And many of them want to change because they understand and see the pain and damage that it’s caused. I think it’s really important that people really see, that young people see, the real damage that they’re doing,” Prince explained.
QPR did what they could to support the Prince family, and they’ve partnered together with the foundation on various community projects since its inception. But the next gesture will really mean the world. After running a competition this summer to nominate a local charity to hold the stadium’s naming rights for at least one season, fans picked the Kiyan Prince Foundation.
“We’re in shock, but there’s excitement added to our shock. Like, wow, Kiyan’s name’s going to be outside the stadium of the club he played for,” Mark says with a glistening smile, “This is my team. These guys love my son. There’s always been a relationship with us, but this different. This is a whole new level. The fans demonstrated that they care about Kiyan Prince. They care about the work that I’ve done. And that means a lot to me. I love this club.”
In the midst of an era where every ounce of the footballing universe is stripped and monetised, this is a pioneering step where, finally, people are the focus. An organisation that deals with the future of the capital’s knife infestation is getting the platform it deserves. Instead of half-hearted, plastic PR content, this is what football needs more of.
On 10 August QPR will walk out for their first home fixture of the season against Huddersfield, and officially unveil and celebrate the new name of their stadium. As R’s fans gather on South Africa Road, in their eyes, the name Prince will be King.
“I think when we see what’s going on in London at the moment, there’s not a day that goes by where we don’t pick up the paper and someone else has been stabbed,” says Les Ferdinand, QPR’s director of football, “this affects families. The more awareness we can bring to it, the more we can do about it – Mark is doing a tremendous amount of work – the more people we can get on board with that, hopefully the better the future will be.”
In the last five years knife crime has risen 70 per cent in the UK, and in April it reached the highest level since records began. With his head in his hands in disbelief, Mark claims the system is utterly broken. Alongside the endless promise of more police officers, he questions the root causes such as cuts to youth services and the lack of funding for local charities.
In 2017 Mark sat down with London mayor Sadiq Khan, offering a meticulously planned strategy that he claims would “save them millions” in helping with the city’s knife epidemic, but he walked away feeling ignored, and further disenchanted by politicians.
“I just think we live in a society that continually shows us that we don’t actually want to deal with this – we only say we want to deal with it,” Mark stresses with a sigh, “It goes much deeper than knives. People need support and help in a world that doesn’t care about the welfare of individuals.”
“Let’s deal with truth, and let’s deal with reality,” he adds, “It’s not like we don’t know the solution. It’s already being done in Scotland. We don’t need any more debates, even if they’re real debates. Let’s just save the children. They are dying. They have a twisted mindset, and we have to blame everyone in society for our children being like this…. You’ve got to take a knife out of the mind, not out of the hand.”
You can donate to the Kiyan Prince Foundation here to assist with funding their various programmes that can help young people and change the narrative on carrying knives.