Alex Higgins, the world champion in 1972 and 1982, is reported by several media sources to be down to six stone and living on baby food after his teeth fell out following radiotherapy treatment for throat cancer.
A website has been established asking for donations towards the £20,000 Higgins needs for teeth implants. The 61 year-old speaks in a whisper due to the cancer.
Higgins did as much as anyone and more than most to elevate snooker from folk sport to major television attraction.
His mesmeric playing style and chaotic private life created a heady mix loved by newspapers and the public.
His capture of the 1982 world title, after which he tearfully beckoned his wife and baby daughter on to the Crucible stage, are fondly remembered as some of the most iconic images in the sport’s history.
Higgins was a hellraiser and an anti-hero. He craved the limelight and seemed addicted to self-destruction.
Many of the things he did, notably his treatment of people, could not be defended. Ken Doherty was among those who organised a benefit night for him in Ireland in 1997. Higgins repaid this generosity by refusing to sign any autographs afterwards.
This sums him up: a stubbornly rebellious spirit walking a tightrope between genius and madness.
But any other sport would have erected a statue to Higgins by now. Without him, snooker may never have reached the peaks of popularity in the late 1970s that led to the creation of the professional circuit as we know it today.
Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins once stood on top of the snooker world. The game today should offer its compassion to a fallen star.
Donations can be made here.