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Last Updated: Friday, 11 April, 2003, 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK
Bad Boys: Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins

In the first of a six-part series focusing on 'bad boys' of snooker, we look at the life and times of Northern Ireland's Alex Higgins.

Enigmatic on the table, an enigma off it.

He was the icon in an era of icons, but like Shakespeare's tragic heroes his fatal flaws cut short a certain glittering career.

Drinking, smoking, scuffles and court appearances were all part of Higgins' make-up.

After learning his trade in Belfast's Jampot club, he went on to win amateur titles in Northern Ireland before turning professional in 1971.

A year later he took part in his first World Championship, which he won 37-32 at the expense of old-school John Spencer.

Even in a marathon contest such as that, Higgins was a breath of fresh air - punters knew it, organisers knew, as did sponsors.

He made the final twice more - in 1976 and 1980 - before winning another title, beating Ray Reardon 18-15 with a 135-clearance in the winning frame.

The Hurricane won two Benson and Hedges Masters titles and one UK Championship, but many believe he could have won much more.

These days it would be unlikely for a player to be seen drinking and smoking between shots, but in the 1970s and 1980s it was the norm.

Higgins loved doing both and also attracted his fair share of women, who were seduced by his flamboyant lifestyle.

And now the dramatic fall...

In 1986, the Belfast man was asked to provide a urine sample for a random drugs test following his UK Championship match against Mike Hallett and then ended up head-butting tournament director Paul Hatherell.

1986: Headbutted snooker official
1990: Threatened to have Dennis Taylor shot
1990: Abused referee

He subsequently found himself fined 12,000 and also banned from five tournaments.

At the 1990 World Cup - snooker not football - he threatened to have fellow Ireland team-mate Dennis Taylor shot and followed that up by abusing referee John Spencer.

As if that did not land him in enough hot water he then proceeded to punch the tournament director at the World Championship which led to a season ban.

Higgins played his last major tournament at the Pavilions in Plymouth in 1997 - a World Championship qualifying event.

Unfortunately for the veteran he reacted to defeat in a bad way and was ejected from the arena only to be found the next morning claiming to have been stabbed.

Since then Higgins has suffered from throat cancer, although an operation to remove a diseased lymph node from his neck proved successful.

Now 54, Higgins has endured financial problems, forcing him, according to many, to go into pubs and clubs to play for money.

The veteran cancelled a number of comebacks before appearing in the first round of the Irish Open, only to lose 5-1 to 16-year-old Darren Dornan.

Bad Boy rating: 11/10

Part Two: Canadian's all-white Kirk Stevens comes under the Bad Boys microscope.

Bad Boys: Kirk Stevens
15 Apr 03  |  Snooker
Bad Boys: 'Big' Bill Werbeniuk
18 Apr 03  |  Snooker
Bad Boys: Quinten Hann
24 Apr 03  |  Snooker
Bad Boys: Ronnie O'Sullivan
02 May 03  |  Snooker

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