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Page last updated at 18:57 GMT, Saturday, 24 July 2010 19:57 UK

Snooker legend Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins dies at 61

Alex Higgins wins the 1982 Snooker World Championship

Archive - Alex Higgins wins 1982 World title (UK users only)

Former world snooker champion Alex Higgins has died aged 61 after a long battle against throat cancer.

The 1972 and 1982 world champion, a heavy smoker, was found dead in his flat in Belfast on Saturday.

Recent newspaper pictures showed a painfully thin Higgins in Spain after his hopes of having surgery to get new teeth had been dashed.

Higgins lost all his teeth during his cancer treatment but was not deemed fit enough to have the surgery.

The legendary Northern Ireland player had been suffering from throat cancer for more than a decade and he blamed his illness largely on the cigarette makers who sponsored his sport.


His weight had reportedly plummeted to only seven stone as he had to have all his food pureed because eating in a normal fashion had become excruciating.

Friends of the controversial snooker legend had raised around £20,000 to enable Higgins to have the surgery in Spain.

However, he was deemed too frail to undergo the operation by the Spanish medics.

Higgins was in the news in May after claiming that he had knowledge of at least four top players taking bribes to lose tournament matches.

He also revealed that he turned down several big-money offers to throw games in his career.

Alex Higgins

Archive - Higgins pips White to 1982 final (UK users only)

Higgins, the world champion in 1972 and 1982, claimed Greek gamblers offered him £18,000 in 1979 to lose his Benson & Hedges Masters quarter-final against Perrie Mans and £20,000 to cheat at the Irish Masters in 1989 but rejected both.

Higgins was scheduled to appear in the new World Seniors Championship in November.

The Belfast man clinched his first World title in 1972 as he defeated John Spencer in the final and memorably repeated that triumph 10 years later at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield by beating Ray Reardon.

Higgins was also beaten in the 1976 and 1980 world finals while other triumphs included two Masters titles at Wembley.

He had frequent brushes with snooker's governing body - he once head-butted a tournament director - and his career suffered a downward spiral after being banned for an entire season following a threat to have his compatriot Dennis Taylor shot in 1990.

However, Taylor was among the first of many former players and others connected with the sport to pay tribute to Higgins, admitting: "There was just something about the way he played the game - there was a little bit of [John] McEnroe in there.

"I don't think you'll ever see a player in the game of snooker like the great Alex Higgins."

BBC snooker commentator Philip Studd described Higgins as "snooker's original troubled genius".

"Charismatic, flash, fast, unpredictable, combustible - you just couldn't take your eyes off the 'Hurricane'," the BBC commentator told Radio 5 live.

Without Higgins snooker would never have become one of the most popular television sports in the 1980s

BBC snooker commentator Philip Studd

"While he could never match the consistency of Steve Davis or Stephen Hendry, Higgins on his day was the greatest of them all.

"He touched the heights in 1982 when he won his second world title.

"He pipped Jimmy White to the final thanks to a break still widely regarded as the finest ever made.

"His tears of triumph after beating Ray Reardon - wife and baby in arms - remains one of snooker's most iconic moments.

"Without Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins snooker would never have become one of the most popular television sports in the 1980s and beyond."

Higgins was married twice and had two children with his second wife Lynn, whom he later divorced.


Archive - The Hurricane's Whirlwind Trick Shot

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see also
Remembering the Hurricane
25 Jul 10 |  Snooker
Obituary: Alex Higgins
24 Jul 10 |  Snooker
Tributes paid to iconic 'Hurricane'
24 Jul 10 |  Snooker
Alex Higgins: A life in pictures
24 Jul 10 |  Northern Ireland
Alex Higgins makes bribery claim
09 May 10 |  Snooker
Snooker goes back to the future
19 Apr 10 |  Snooker
Higgins goes back to his roots
09 May 09 |  Snooker
Alex Higgins interview
06 Jun 07 |  Snooker
An evening with Alex Higgins
28 Apr 04 |  Funny Old Game
Alex Higgins 'almost stopped breathing'
16 Apr 00 |  Northern Ireland
Snooker on the BBC
08 Apr 11 |  Snooker

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