He’s hitting 61, gaunt, recovering from cancer and not exactly living the good life — but Alex Higgins ardently believes he can still thrill snooker fans with his mesmeric skill.
It’s nearly 38 years since ‘The Hurricane’ started blowing as a professional — he won the world title at his first attempt in 1972 — and time has clearly taken its toll on the Belfast man.
This remarkable close-up picture of the self-styled ‘People’s Champion’ taken by Ulster photographer Cathal McNaughton, highlights Higgy’s wizened face which, like the rest of his body, has become scarily thin over the last few years.
That he’s is not looking his best is unsurprising; just over a decade ago he was diagnosed with throat cancer. And while the unforgiving disease may now be in remission, Higgins bears all the hallmarks of its assault — for example, his once thick and lustrous hair is now patchy and limp.
Currently living in sheltered housing on the Donegal Road in Belfast, the man thought by many to be one of the finest ever snooker players of all time has vowed he will not be beaten by his illness.
Video by David Ferrarotto
And while it may be remarkable that two-time World Champion Higgins is still here, what’s more surprising is his decision to attempt a comeback in the forthcoming Snooker Legends UK tour.
Organised by long-time friend and rival Jimmy White, the tour takes in 18 dates, beginning at the Crucible in Sheffield in April. At each venue, Higgins will play White and ex-World Champions John Parrott and Cliff Thorburn.
Higgins — who at his peak was one of the biggest earners in British sport — has not played competitive snooker for 12 years.
But in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, he said he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“People stop me and say ‘when you coming back, Alex; when you going to show these so-and-so’s who claim to be snooker players how to play the game?” he said.
Now they have their answer...