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Pattaya Daily News

25 July 2010 :: 15:07:04 pm 33353

Two-time Snooker Champ “Hurricane” Higgins Dies at 61

Alex Higgins, the legendary former, twice world champion snooker player, died yesterday at the age of 61 after a long battle with throat cancer at his home in Belfast.
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Pattaya 25th July 2010. [Belfast] Alex, a heavy smoker and known for his wild lifestyle as well as his flamboyant technique, body swerves and unusual cueing movements was reportedly found dead in his flat in Belfast on Saturday after suffering throat cancer for the last decade and spent many years in remission.  He had lost all his teeth through his intensive treatment and blamed his condition on the cigarette makers who sponsored him during his career.

He had raised approximately £20,000 in the hope of having further surgery in Spain, but was deemed unfit. His weight was reported to have dropped to seven stone as he had to have all is meals pureed due to the pain he suffered when trying to eat in the normal fashion.

Higgins started playing snooker from the age of 11, but three years later he left for England to become a jockey, but due to his quick weight gain, returned home and in 1968 he won the All Ireland and Northern Ireland amateur snooker championships and turned professional at the age of 22 when he won his first World Championship at his first attempt.

Alex earned his nickname Hurricane due to his skill and speed around the table. He became world champion by the age of 22, against John Spencer and became one of the fans’ most favourite players when snooker’s booming popularity in the 1970’s and 1980’s made players, household names. He beat Welshman Ray Reardon in an 18-15 final, winning his second world title in 1982, in one of the sport’s best remembered matches.

Alex Higgins was as electrifying on the table as well as off it.  He once head butted a tournament director which resulted in a fine and a ban from five tournaments, punched a referee after he was once defeated and a ban for a whole season after threatening to have Dennis Taylor shot in 1990, which resulted in his career spiraling downhill.

Dennis Taylor, however, was amongst the first of the many former players to pay tribute to Alex, saying “It was more than just the way he played the game he had a little bit of John McEnroe.”  “I don’t think you will ever see a player in the game of snooker like the great Alex Higgins.”

Higgins was described by the BBC snooker commentator Philip Stud as “snooker’s original troubled genius.” “He was charismatic; flash, fast, unpredictable, combustible. You just could not take your eyes off the Hurricane.”

Steve Davis, who played a number of memorable matches against Higgins in the 80’s, said, “He was the one true genius that snooker has ever produced. To people in the game he was a constant source of argument, a rebel, but to the public, he was a breath of fresh air that drew them to the game.  He was an inspiration to my generation to take up the game. I do not think his contribution to snooker can be underestimated. He was quite a fierce competitor.  He lived and breathed the game and was very much a fighter on the table.”  He added, “It was a love hate relationship with Alex Higgins. The thrill of playing him was fantastic, but the crowd that came along were not your usual, they were much more noisy.  I used to be quite frightened of him as an individual, he could be quite vexatious, but on the snooker table my admiration was immense.”

Barry Hearn, promoter of snooker said, “I have known Higgins for nearly 40 years. He was the major reason for snooker’s popularity in the early days. He was controversial at times, but always played the game in the right spirit. We will miss him.  He was the peoples’ champion.  While he could never match the consistency of Steve Davies or Stephen Hendry, Alex Higgins in his day was the greatest of them all.” Higgins continued to play despite his illness and appeared at the Irish Professional Championship in 2005 and 2006.

His failure to answer his phone led to his body being discovered his flat in at a sheltered housing complex in Belfast city center after having to be broken into. His autobiographer said, “Everyone knew that this was the inevitable, but it is still a shock when it happens.”

Reggie Colbeck

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