Yvonne Durelle: The Fighting Fisherman
By Luke Beirne: YVON Durelle was born in a small Acadian fishing village in Atlantic Canada on October 14th, 1929. At a young age, he left school to join his father and grandfather as a commercial fisherman along the coastline of New Brunswick. Though his first professional boxing match was in 1949, Durelle began boxing for money at the age of fifteen.
In a career that officially spanned 16 years and 115 fights, Yvon Durelle stepped into the ring with such greats as Floyd Patterson and George Chuvalo. Most often, however, Durelle is remembered for his 1958 fight against Archie Moore, who called Durelle “the toughest man I ever faced” – no small compliment from a man whose career of 229 bouts included bouts against Muhammad Ali, Ezzard Charles, and Rocky Marciano.
The early years of Durelle’s career are marked by a series of rivalries against Maritime boxers like the McCluskey brothers from Prince Edward Island, which quickly garnered local fame before he stepped up to the national level. Between 1949 and 1951, Durelle fought Cobey McCluskey a total of six times.
In 1953, The Fighting Fisherman claimed the vacant Canadian Middleweight Title. Four months and seven victories later, he won a unanimous decision against Gordon Wallace and claimed the Canadian Light Heavyweight Title. Durelle went on to beat Wallace four more times over the course of his career, including a knockout victory in 1957 for the Commonwealth Title.
Durelle and Moore’s first famous bout fell on a cold winter night at the Montreal Forum. Moore was known as one of the greatest knockout artists in the history of the sport. The odds were stacked 4-1 against Durelle. It was December 10th, 1958, and fans were tuned in live from coast to coast.
When the first bell rang, the two fighters met in the center of the ring. Durelle bobbed and weaved; Moore stood tall in his trademark cross-arm shell. The boxers circled and tested one another with light punches. Then, less than a minute in, Durelle opened a hole in Moore’s shell with a series of jabs and followed up with a sharp right hand, sending the veteran to the canvas. When Moore struggled to his feet, Durelle stepped back in with a flurry of uppercuts and hooks. Still dazed, Moore went down again after being battered rope-to-rope. The Old Mongoose rose quickly, but Durelle stepped back in with a single overhand right and sent him down for a third time.
Archie Moore struggled to his feet at the count of nine and, somehow, managed to hang on for the end of the round. For the remainder of the fight, the two boxed back and forth in a fight that has become a classic of boxing. In the end, Moore’s experience paid off, and, in the eleventh round, he knocked Durelle out. It was the comeback of the century. Joe Louis called it the greatest fight he had ever seen.
Unfortunately, Durelle suffered a severe back injury in a boat accident before his much-anticipated rematch against Moore. When they fought, he lasted only three rounds. He took eleven more fights, with eight more victories, before hanging up the gloves in 1964 with a record of 88 wins, 24 losses, and 49 knockouts.
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