Wrestling legend Ivan 'The Russian Bear' Koloff died on Feb. 18 at the age of 74.
Koloff, a World Wide Wrestling Federation icon, died after a long battle with liver cancer. He was a notorious entertainer whose character was a bearded Russian villain, though he was born with the name Oreal Perras in Montreal, Canada, in 1942, People reports.
Koloff introduced his character in 1967 during an International Wrestling Association match. In 1971, he won the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship.
On a GoFundMe page created on Feb. 2 before Koloff's death, his daughter Rachel wrote,"My dad was diagnosed with liver disease about 10 years ago and while he has been living with it, he chose not to make this announcement public to his fans and friends," according to The Post and Courier.
"But doctors are now saying that his liver function is getting worse day by day and it will continue to," Rachel continued. "There are no other medical options available for my dad for a cure."
Colleagues and friends offered condolences via social media, including fellow wrestling legend Hulk Hogan.
"RIP Ivan Koloff, it's been a tough week..." Hogan tweeted on Feb. 18, according to People.
Seneca, South Carolina, pastor Andy McDaniel grew up watching Koloff battling Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair, and spoke of his memories of the notorious wrestler in an interview with The Post and Courier:
I was fortunate to have witnessed him take part in so many incredible battles in the wrestling ring. The enormous anger he could elicit from a crowd was extraordinary. It was a time that suspending belief was very easy to do and characters like Ivan Koloff were the masters … The memories of seeing him doing promos alongside Johnny Valentine, his matches with Dusty or Wahoo and, of course, his tremendous feud with Jimmy Valiant.
The wrestling memories are many, but it would be the time later in life when I ministered with Ivan that I hold dear to my heart. He was a man who had experienced great change in his life and he was proud to openly share his faith with all who crossed his path. While indeed he will always be known as the "Russian Bear," those who were blessed to truly know him knew that he was a gentle Lamb. It was a blessing to have known him.