Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, a US boxer made famous by a racially-tinged wrongful murder conviction that put him behind bars for 19 years, has died. He was 76.

Carter, who passed away of prostate cancer in Toronto, was convicted twice in the 1966 murder of three people who were fatally shot at a tavern in Paterson, New Jersey, US and Canadian media reported.

The conviction, which cut short his illustrious boxing career as a fearsome middleweight contender, made him a pop culture cause celebre.

His story caught the attention of boxing great Muhammad Ali and inspired Bob Dylan's 1975 song 'Hurricane.'

Decades later, 1999 film 'The Hurricane,' earned Denzel Washington an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Carter.

In 1985, Carter was exonerated by US district court judge H. Lee Sarokin, who said the conviction had been "based on an appeal to racism rather than reason," according to the non-profit Chicago Innocence Project that investigates wrongful convictions.

Carter was convicted along with his friend John Artis, who was also black, by an all-white jury in the death of two white men and a white woman, according to US media.

Carter was given a second trial in 1976 and convicted yet again.

After finally being released, Carter, a native of New Jersey, moved to Toronto.

From 1993 to 2005, he served as the executive director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted in Canada.

The organisation said it was "deeply saddened" by the death of Carter, "a truly courageous man who fought tirelessly to free others who had suffered the same fate."

Carter spent the latter part of his life advocating for the wrongly imprisoned.