Rubin "Hurricane" Carter died Sunday. He was 76.
He had been fighting prostate cancer in Toronto, his adopted home. John Artis, a longtime friend and caregiver, told The Canadian Press that Carter died in his sleep.
Despite his prowess in the ring, Carter was probably best know for the 19 years he spent in prison for three murders at a tavern in Paterson, N.J., in 1966. He was convicted alongside Artis in 1967 and again in a new trial in 1976.
Carter was finally freed in November 1985 when his convictions were set aside after years of appeals and public advocacy. The entire ordeal was immortalized in Bob Dylan's 1975 song "Hurricane," several books, and a 1999 film starring Denzel Washington, who received an Academy Award nomination for playing the boxer turned prisoner.
Carter's murder convictions abruptly ended the boxing career of a former petty criminal who became an undersized middleweight contender mainly on his punching strength and ferocity.
Carter went 27-12-1 with 19 knockouts in his career, memorably defeating two-division champ Emile Griffith in the first round in 1963.
He did fight for the middleweight title in 1964 however lost a unanimous decision to Joey Giardello.
In June 1966, three white people were shot by two black men at the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson. Carter and Artis were convicted by an all-white jury largely on the testimony of two thieves who later recanted their stories.
Carter was granted a new trial and briefly freed in 1976, but ultimately returned to prison for nine more years after a second conviction.
Thom Kidrin became friends with Carter and told The Associated Press the boxer "didn't have any bitterness or anger, he kind of got above it all. That was his great strength."
"I wouldn't give up," Carter said in an interview on PBS in 2011. "No matter that they sentenced me to three life terms in prison. I wouldn't give up. Just because a jury of 12 misinformed people... found me guilty did not make me guilty, and because I was not guilty, I refused to act like a guilty person."
Dylan became aware of Carter's plight after reading the boxer's autobiography. He met Carter and co-wrote "Hurricane," which he performed on his Rolling Thunder Revue tour in 1975. Muhammad Ali also spoke out on Carter's behalf. Advertising art director George Lois and other celebrities joined the cause toward Carter's release.
With a network of friends and volunteers also advocating for him, Carter eventually won his release from U.S. District Judge H. Lee Sarokin, who wrote that Carter's prosecution had been "predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure."
Carter was fairly short for a middleweight at 5-foot-8, but he was aggressive and threw a lot of punches. His shaved head and menacing glower gave him an imposing ring presence, but also contributed to a menacing aura outside the ring. He was quoted as joking about killing police officers in a 1964 story in the Saturday Evening Post, which was later cited by Carter as a cause of his troubles with police.
After his release, Carter moved to Toronto, where he served as the executive director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted from 1993 to 2005. He received two honorary doctorates for his work.
Kidrin said Carter would be cremated, with some of the ashes given to his family. Two sisters are among Carter's survivors, though Kidrin said Carter was alienated from numerous in his family.
Kidrin planned to sprinkle Carter's remains in the ocean off Cape Cod, where they spent the last three summers together. Artis planned to bring some of the ashes to a horse farm in Kentucky the boxer loved.
Kidrin spoke with 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.'"
AP Sports Writer Rick Freeman and AP Drama Writer Mark Kennedy contributed to this report