Snooker star Alex Higgins was said to be fighting for life in hospital today after being rushed there with suspected pneumonia.
The frail former world champion, who has fought a long battle with throat cancer, was admitted to Belfast City Hospital yesterday with breathing problems.
Doctors managed to stabilise the 61-year-old’s condition but it is understood he is seriously ill.
Fans of the Hurricane have watched his health deteriorate rapidly in recent years. Friends and family have feared for the colourful Belfast player since he was diagnosed with throat cancer over ten years ago. He is in remission but its toll on his body is evident in his gaunt and thin appearance.
Currently living in sheltered housing on the Donegall Road in Belfast, Higgins is considered to be one of the finest snooker players of all time. He has had long-term problems with alcohol and smoking since winning the world title in 1972 and 1982.
The Hurricane’s diagnosis with pneumonia is a major setback to his determination to keep playing snooker professionally.
Despite his numerous fights and rows with referees over the years, he still plays the game regularly and appeared at the Irish Professional Championship in 2005 and 2006. He entered the Northern Ireland Amateur Championship in May last year to “give it a crack” but failed to appear for his opening match.
Higgins has been an inspiration for many of today's best players, including Ken Doherty, Jimmy White and Ronnie O'Sullivan, who said: “Alex was an inspiration to players like Jimmy White and thousands of snooker players all over the country, including me. The way he played at his best is the way I believe the game should be played. It was on the edge, keeping the crowd entertained.”
Video by David Ferrarotto