Baie Ste. Anne, N.B
Yvon Durelle, born Oct 14, 1929, was known as the Fighting Fisherman, and was one of the Maritimes’ most courageous and colourful athletes. A native of Baie Ste. Anne, New Brunswick, Durelle split his time between fishing, working on lighthouses and light-heavyweight championship boxing, beginning in 1947. With twelve siblings living in close quarters (7 biological siblings and 4 adopted brothers and sisters), as well as the rough and tumble life in Baie Ste. Anne, he had plenty of ‘brawling’ practice in his early years. His great natural talent and toughness caught the attention of Moncton promoter Chris Shaban, who became Durelle’s manager and trainer and launched him into the professional boxing circuit, becoming the Canadian light-heavyweight champion by 1953. He lost that title later that year but regained it in July, 1954 and successfully defended it on two occasions, retiring with that title.
By May 30, 1957, Durelle had developed sufficient prowess and skills to allow him to challenge for the British Empire light-heavyweight title defeating Gordon Wallace by knock-out in the second round. After this victory, Yvon was matched against Archie Moore for the world light-heavyweight championship. On December 10, 1958, in a fight that had all of Canada – and much of the world – on the edge of its seat, he came very close to capturing that title. He had the Moore down three times in the first round, and four times in the fight. He was himself knocked down three times, and finally counted out the fourth time in the eleventh round. Though he failed to claim the crown, this fight went down in Canadian boxing history as perhaps the best bouts of the half-century.
Durelle’s reputation as a tough and determined boxer was well earned. Credited with an iron constitution, he once fought Floyd Patterson with a broken his hand that occurred during a bout some six days earlier. Although advised to postpone, Durelle refused, as he had promised he’d be there and had Patterson by decision in eight rounds.
Though he was a fearsome force in the ring, Durelle had a kind and gentle personality and was affectionately referred to as Doux, French for soft. Durelle’s last big fight was against George Chuvalo in 1959 for the Canadian heavyweight title. With the beginnings of leg problems, he lost, and promptly announced his retirement. It was also a fight that perhaps Yvon did not have his heart in, as that was shortly after some thirty-five (35) Baie Sainte Anne fishermen lost their lives when a rogue wave struck the village pier. He made a brief comeback in 1963 before finally retiring to his home province.
Yvon was married on June 27, 1951 to his loving wife, Therese (Martin), and they had four children, Geneva (LaPierrre), Yvon, Jr. (called Bo), Paul and Francine (Kipling). Three live in New Brunswick, but Francine currently resides in Winnipeg with her husband and two children. Geneva became a nurse and helped as their parents aged. Yvon died in 2007 being cared for by Therese, who passed away herself in 2011. Francine describes her father as a character who enjoyed playing jokes, cards games and his dogs, but could be serious when need be. He also discouraged his sons from taking up fighting.
In 105 professional bouts, Durelle won 44 by knockout and 38 by decision. He lost ten by decision, three on foul, and was knocked out nine times. Based on this record, Yvon Durelle was enshrined in the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame in 1989. He is also a member of the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame (1971) and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame (1975).
Some interesting links for Yvon Durelle (several are in French; some involve genealogy and other have video links included):