The iconic two-time world champion Alex Higgins died at the age of 61 on this day in 2010.
A long battle with throat cancer contributed towards the death of a man widely regarded as the ‘People’s Champion’ due to his prominent role in the steep increase in the popularity of snooker.
It was back in 1972 when the ‘Hurricane’ lived up to his name as he stormed to victory in his debut World Championship, beating John Spencer in the final.
The youngest winner of the tournament at the time, the Northern Irishman would be a runner-up in two more finals at the event before he added a second title to his name.
A 10-year gap separated Higgins’ maiden World Championship success and his 1982 Crucible triumph, with his swashbuckling style continuing to raise his profile and that of the sport with snooker now a permanent fixture on TV.
Wins at the 1978 and 1981 editions of the Masters also built up his reputation alongside his well-documented alcohol intake and frequent smoking during competitions.
Even though snooker had become household, an even bigger audience was attracted to the sport following Higgins’ comeback in the final of the 1983 UK Championship.
Alex Higgins of Northern Ireland, lines up a shot in 1984
Trailing Steve Davis by seven frames, he produced a memorable response to claim yet another famous victory this time by a 16-15 score.
While his speed around the table remained as rapid as ever, the stranglehold on his battle with drink soon slipped and a ban for headbutting a referee contributed towards a relatively early retirement for the Belfast boy.
The Hurricane’s last hurrah of sorts was in the 1989 Irish Masters where he won a close final over Stephen Hendry, who would later take his record as the youngest winner of the World Championship.
Alex Higgins smokes a cigarette during a match in 1988
Diagnosed with throat cancer 11 years later, Higgins’ weight plummeted to six stone before his death on July 24, 2010 with the cause a combination of malnutrition, pneumonia, tooth decay and a bronchial condition with his health so depleted he was unable to eat properly.
A funeral service at St Anne’s Cathedral saw the streets of Belfast flocked to remember one of the greatest gunslingers in the history of the sport with fellow professionals Jimmy White, Hendry and Ken Doherty among those in attendance to pay their respects to the Hurricane.