Rubin "Hurricane'' Carter, a star boxer whose career was cut short by a murder conviction in New Jersey and who became an international cause celebre while imprisoned for 19 years before the charges were dismissed, died Sunday morning at his home in Toronto. He was 76.
The cause of death was prostate cancer, his friend and onetime co-defendant, John Artis, said. Mr. Carter was being treated in Toronto, where he had founded a nonprofit organization, Innocence International, to work to free prisoners it considered wrongly convicted.
Mr. Carter was convicted twice on the same charges of fatally shooting two men and a woman in a Paterson, N.J., tavern in 1966. Mr. Carter was black and the victims were white. He was granted a new trial and briefly freed in 1976 but sent back for nine more years after being convicted in a second trial. Both jury verdicts were overturned on different grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.
Mr. Carter (27-12-1, 19 knockouts) was a ferocious, charismatic, crowd-pleasing boxer who was known for his shaved head, goatee, glowering visage and devastating left hook. He went 27-12-1 with 19 knockouts, memorably stopping two-division champ Emile Griffith in the first round in 1963. He fought for a middleweight title in 1964, losing a unanimous decision to Joey Giardello.
He attracted worldwide attention during the campaign to clear his name. A defense committee studded with entertainment, sports, civil rights and political personalities was organized. Bob Dylan's 1975 song Hurricane championed his innocence.
Mr. Carter defied his prison guards from the first day of his incarceration, spending time in solitary confinement because of it. "When I walked into prison, I refused to wear their stripes," Mr. Carter said. "I refused to eat their food. I refused to work their jobs, and I would have refused to breathe the prison's air if I could have done so. … Just because a jury of 12 misinformed people found me guilty did not make me guilty."
He had trouble with the law throughout his life, beginning at age 9 when his father, a Baptist church deacon, turned him in to police for stealing clothes.
Mr. Carter, 5 feet 8 and about 155 pounds, got his nickname when a promoter described him in advertisements as a raging, destructive force.
His friend Thom Kidrin planned to sprinkle Mr. Carter's remains in the ocean off Cape Cod, where they spent the past three summers together. He spoke with Mr. Carter on Wednesday:
"He said, 'You know, look, death's coming. I'm ready for it. But it's really going to have to take me because I'm positive to the end.' "
Hopkins milestone: Bernard Hopkins made more boxing history, and did it in rather easy fashion. Then the 49-year-old showed his age, referencing a TV character that might have gone over the heads of many young fans. "I was so in my living room watching Archie Bunker," Hopkins said, playfully comparing himself to the main character from the 1970's series All in the Family. "I was so relaxed, so relaxed." Already the oldest to hold a world championship, Hopkins became the oldest to win a unification bout Saturday night with a 12-round split decision over Beibut Shumenov in Washington. Hopkins said he should be considered the third-best pound-for-pound fighter behind Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward.