Alex Higgins ‘The Hurricane’ died at the age of 61 in his home town of Belfast after a 12 year long battle with throat cancer.
He was the bad boy of the golden age of Snooker, and was never far from controversy. He was rarely seen without a cigarette in one hand and a pint in the other when his opponent was at the table. But when he was at the table he seemed to be able to rewrite the laws of physics.
His greatest ever match was against Jimmy White in the Semi-Finals of the 1982 World Championship. The match swung one way and then the other, and was played at a lighting pace for the time. White was one red away from advancing to the Final, but missed it with the rest. Higgins then produced what is generally regarded as the finest break (69) in Snooker history. The Hurricane would go onto win the match 16-15, and then became World Champion for the second time – ten years after his first title – beating fellow legend Ray Reardon 18-15 in the Final.
However, Higgins’s heavy smoking and drinking caught up with him as he was diagnosed with the throat cancer that would ultimately kill him in 1998. He also became an obsessive gambler, and admitted using cocaine and weed in his past.
In his final months he took part in the Snooker Legends Tour debut event at the home of Snooker – The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. In an unrelated event his fellow professionals and friends tried to raise £20,000 so that he could get a new set of teeth fitted. His original set of teeth had fallen out during his radiotherapy, and was reported to be living on liquid food. At the time of his death he weight only six stones (38Kg).Yes he may have made several wrong turns in his life, but to me and the rest of the Snooker world, he will be remembered as one of the golden generation who brought Snooker out of the clubs and into our living rooms.
When asked for my fantasy Snooker match I reply with this: “Alex Higgins vs. Ronnie O’Sullivan. Higgins to win.”